Climate change is causing seas to rise and we hear frequent warnings about how future flooding will inundate cities. Visualizing the flooding may be more powerful than words when it comes to understanding what this really means. So, Andrew David Thaler, a deep-sea ecologist and population geneticist in San Francisco, devised a creative application for Google Earth maps that shows what cities around the world would look like under various levels of flooding, from one meter up to 80 meters.
Thaler, who also oversees a marine science blog called Southern Fried Science, started the exercise as a way to depict his serial science fiction novel, Fleet, which describes a world in which the oceans have risen 80 meters. He first depicted his home town of San Francisco and then began taking requests from individuals around the world who wanted to see their cities under similar conditions. Thaler posted the fascinating visualizations on a Twitter page, #DrownYourTown, and they caught on. He received so many requests that he posted instructions online to help people create their own simulations. Enthusiasts worldwide are now posting their visualizations to the Twitter hashtag.
We asked Thaler to send us some of his favorites among the flood images that he created, which are reproduced here in the accompanying slide show. It would only take one meter of sea level rise, for example, to seriously flood Tokyo and Miami. The maps are not validated by scientific data and many variables influence actual sea level rise at any location. Still, the images are curiosities and represent a captivating way to spread awareness about climate change.