Surging Seas Sea level rise analysis by Climate Central

‘Risk Zone’ Map Redesigned and Expanded Globally

November 8, 2015

By Climate Central

Climate Central has launched a redesigned version of its Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, and extended the map from U.S.-only to global coverage. Our goal is to provide a powerful new web tool to boost global understanding and communication of sea level rise and coastal flooding under different carbon emissions scenarios, and to better inform coastal planning and resilience efforts globally.  

New Risk Zone Map features include:

  • Ability to explore inundation ​risk ​up to 30 meters (100 feet) high across the world's coastlines

  • Local sea level rise projections at over 1,000 tide gauges on 6 continents displayed on the map

  • Flood risk projections included at select tide gauges within the United States

  • Customized map image downloads via camera icon at top right of screen

The map is embeddable and searchable by city, state, postal code, and other location names. Map areas below the selected water level are displayed as satellite imagery shaded in blue indicating vulnerability to flooding from combined sea level rise, storm surge, and tides, or to permanent submergence by long-term sea level rise. Map areas above the selected water level are shown in map style using white and pale grays.

For map areas in the U.S., the Risk Zone Map incorporates high-resolution, high-accuracy lidar elevation data supplied by NOAA, displays points of interest, and contains layers displaying social vulnerability, population density, ethnicity, income, and property value. For map areas outside the United States, very little lidar data is available. Instead, we use radar satellite-based data collected from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). This elevation data covers nearly the entire populated world, but is less accurate than lidar. SRTM’s pixel resolution is lower, and in areas of dense urban development and vegetation, SRTM tends to overestimate elevation. Recent work also suggests that SRTM usually underpredicts exposure from sea level rise and coastal flooding. Outside the U.S., our flood maps should therefore be seen as likely lower bounds on the extent of potential inundation for each water level.

Surging Seas Risk Zone Map and our companion Risk Finder are listed as resources on these national tool portals: U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, NOAA Digital Coast, The White House Climate Data Initiative, EPA My Environment.

This effort is made possible thanks to the many organizations that have supported Climate Central and its sea level program, including the Kresge, Schmidt Family, and V. Kann Rasmussen Foundations. Map development was also supported in part by U.S. National Science Foundation grant ARC-1203415. We further appreciate Stamen Design, the interactive mapping experts with whom we have worked closely from the very start of all of our sea level mapping.

Related tools: Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, Surging Seas Risk Finder

Related pages: Science Behind the Tool, FAQs

For more information please contact Dan Rizza at