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Storm surges are having an enormous impact on homes as changing shorelines put them at risk. This home, depicted in 2016, eventually collapsed when the sand dune it was built on collapsed in 2019.

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» Guide

GIJN’s Guide to Investigating Sea Level Rise: Chapter Five ⁠— Visualizing Rising Oceans

The dramatic effects of sea level rise can be visualized in a variety of ways. For emotional appeal, digitally modified photos can show how rising water levels might affect treasured monuments and buildings. Interactive maps allow users to explore whether waves will lap at their own homes. Photographs and graphics can be powerful visual ways of illustrating the consequences.

Impact on Well-Known Landmarks

Picturing Our Future is a collection of dramatic projections for 189 locations by Climate Central based on a 2021 research paper, Unprecedented Threats to Cities from Multi-century Sea Level Rise. Climate Central’s work has also been featured by Google Earth.

Money magazine created tourist posters showing the before and after of sea level rise at popular destinations, including New York City, Venice, and the Maldives.

The Straits Times pictured a statue considered the official mascot of Singapore, the Merlion, surrounded by water.

Interactive Maps

The Invading Sea is a news site in Florida that has an embedded Climate Central map that allows users to check on their home or any address. The project is a collaboration of 25 Florida daily newspapers and WLRN, South Florida’s public radio station, and supported by the Energy Foundation and the Environmental Defense Fund. The site features “editorials from our newspaper partners and opinion pieces by scientists, academics, activists, and citizens interested in Florida and the threats posed by climate change.”

Earth Time allows you to scroll on a map to different parts of the globe to view how sea levels rise under various projections.

Coastline Paradox is an interactive online art experiment by two Finnish artists in which a glowing horizontal line superimposed in Google Street View represents future sea level rise. An interactive feature can be used to see the line rise over time in locations worldwide.

NGOs and government agencies in the US also post maps. For example:

Cape Cod Sea Level Rise Viewer allows you to choose the sea level and see where it flows on a map.

Coastal Communities Affected by Sea-level Rise in Maine shows maps of multiple locations.

Oregon Coastal Atlas shows the impact on estuaries.

How Rising Sea Levels Could Push Up a ‘Toxic Soup’ Into Bay Area Neighborhoods, by San Francisco public broadcaster KQED, includes an interactive map developed for the website Toxic Tides.

Photographs and Graphics

Aerial view of the Marshall Islands Jaluit Atoll lagoon, which is in danger of being overtopped due to sea level rise. Image: Keith Polya/Flickr

Photographs are being used to show the current impact of sea level rise and who is being affected.

Artists at Work

Lorenzo Quinn’s dramatic sculpture in Venice depicting the threat of rising sea levels due to climate change. Image: Shutterstock

Artists have also been active in portraying sea level rise, and could be a source for editors. These include:

Some of the literature on floods and sea level rise is summarized in the articles Sea-Level Rise: Writers Imagined Drowned Worlds for Centuries – What they Tell Us About the Future and Melting Ice and Rising Seas. From Greek mythology to J.G.Ballard. The stories featured might give reporters cultural clues or apocalyptic narratives that may resonate with their audiences.

Aka Niviana, a poet from Greenland, and writer Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, who is from the Solomon Islands, both see their communities impacted by climate change: for one of them, the ice is melting, destroying livelihoods; for another, rising sea waters threaten her people’s island homes. They collaborated on a poem, “Rise.” Their words and more details about them are included in a column by climate change expert Bill McKibben, who says: “The hardest idea to get across is also the simplest: we live on a planet, and that planet is breaking. Poets, it turns out, can deliver that message.”

Here’s an excerpt from the poem by Jetnil-Kijiner and Niviana:

The very same beasts

That now decide

Who should live

And who should die …

We demand that the world see beyond

SUVs, ACs, their pre-packaged convenience

Their oil-slicked dreams, beyond the belief

That tomorrow will never happen

And yet there’s a generosity to their witness – a recognition that whoever started the trouble, we’re now in it together.

Let me bring my home to yours

Let’s watch as Miami, New York,

Shanghai, Amsterdam, London

Rio de Janeiro and Osaka

Try to breathe underwater …

None of us is immune.

Life in all forms demands

The same respect we all give to money …

So each and every one of us

Has to decide

If we

Will

Rise

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