National Defense in Jeopardy: Rising Seas Put These Military Bases at Risk of Destruction

Rising seas don’t just put your city in jeopardy, they also threaten the nation’s security. A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found many of America’s most influential military bases are at risk should the ocean water rise even a few feet higher. Submarines, research centers, entire fleets of aircraft and rescue equipment — they’re all exposed to harmful flooding. Ranked by potential danger, here are 16 major national defense centers that could go underwater soon than you think.

16. Eglin Air Force Base

Fighter jets

F-15 fighter jets from Eglin Air Force Base perform a fly over before the start of the Daytona 500 in 2007. | Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR

  • Projected sea level rise: 3.7 to 6.1 feet by 2100

Though Florida is home to 21 military installations, a handful of these bases are close to the coast and listed as vulnerable to the impact of rising seas. Eglin Air Force Base spans 464,000 acres across three counties in the Florida Panhandle. It supports and conducts research on weapons systems, representing every branch of the military. The installation is also home to a Special Forces Group assigned to protect more than 30 countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

By 2070, this flooding could affect nearly all of the barrier island facilities within the base. In this scenario, much of the grounds would be deemed a tidal zone rather than useable land.

Next: Minor flooding, big impact

15. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard

Aerial view of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1955. | Keystone/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 3.5 to 5.9 feet by 2100

The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine is at a high risk of daily flooding by 2100, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists study. This coastal shipyard could experience between 80 to 190 floods per year by 2070 in an intermediate scenario. A simple high tide would affect hundreds of housing buildings and historical districts near Portsmouth.

Next: Marines in jeopardy

14. Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina

Camp Lejeune

A statue of Lt. Gen. John Archer Lejeune stands in a square at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. | Chris Hondros/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 3.7 to 6.1 feet by 2100

Camp Lejeune is where Marines go to train and maintain active-duty forces. It’s located along the New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina and is protected from the Atlantic Ocean by barrier islands. Unfortunately, those islands are vulnerable to rising seas that could be destroyed by high tides and put 90% of the camp underwater by 2100.

Next: Imminent danger

13. Naval Station Mayport, Florida

Sea Hawk helicopters

Sea Hawk helicopters depart Naval Air Station Jacksonville in 2010. Rising sea levels threaten most of the Florida city, including Naval Station Mayport. | Petty Officer 2nd Class Gary B. Granger Jr./U.S. Navy via Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 3.7 to 6.1 feet by 2100

Rising sea levels would endanger much of the coastal city of Jacksonville, Florida including Naval Station Mayport. This military base is home to the Navy’s third-largest fleet housing 34 ships and aircraft carriers. Mayport already experiences frequent flooding, but daily flooding is thought to become a certainty by 2070.

Just a six-foot sea rise would render 55% of NS Mayport a tidal zone and unusable. Projections from NOAA scientists indicate the sea could rise by another 12.6 inches at Mayport by 2030.

Next: NASA is worried

12. Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Kennedy Space Center

Landed SpaceX rockets sit in Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center on May 14, 2016 in Cape Canaveral, Florida. | NASA via Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: unknown

Concerns of rising seas have plagued NASA and the Kennedy Space Center since Hurricane Floyd eroded away the coastline of Cape Canaveral in 1999. Multiple other hurricanes since then spurred a $18 million project to protect against future storm surge posing a risk to space operations. Even the slightest rise in sea level could cause flooding that endangers multiple launch pads and erode the shoreline.

Next: Army in danger

11. Hunter Army Airfield, Georgia

Returning soldiers

Soldiers with the 3rd Infantry Division’s Aviation Brigade, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Aviation line up before being united with their families at Hunter Army Airfield on December 30, 2005. | Stephen Morton/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.0 to 6.4 feet by 2100

More than half of the communities surrounding Savannah, Georgia and Hunter Army Airfield would experience extensive tidal flooding after 2050. This threatens the roughly 5,550 acre facility built to train and support soldiers stationed at Fort Stewart, the largest Army installation on the East coast.

Next: Rising seas threatening the Coast Guard

10. US Coast Guard Station Sandy Hook, New Jersey

Coast Guard cutter

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Adak from Sandy Hook, New Jersey patrols near the Statue of Liberty in 2002. | Tom Sperduto/U.S. Coast Guard/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.0 to 6.4 feet by 2100

USCG Sandy Hook is one of the oldest life-saving stations in the country. It’s also a low-lying military base at risk of rising fees and flooding. Extensive land loss and hide tide flooding will put hundreds of coast guard vessels, emergency response boats, and security initiatives in danger. In the highest risk scenario, UCS revealed Sandy Hook could lose 75% of its land to rising seas.

Next: A big deal for the Navy

9. US Naval Academy, Maryland

Naval Academy graduation

U.S. Naval Academy graduates toss their hats in the air following graduation ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy May 26, 2017, in Annapolis, Maryland. | Win McNamee/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.0 and 6.4 feet by 2100

The Naval Academy and most of Annapolis, Maryland waterfront is situated within the rising sea danger zone. The Academy already endures 50 high tide floods a year, but predictive maps suggest that number could skyrocket to 400 tidal flooding events by 2050. Much of its infrastructure went underwater during Hurricane Isabel, which prompted a deep analysis of at-risk military bases around the world. Just a four-foot rise would compromise 10% of the Academy’s land area.

Next: The heart of our defense systems

8. Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and Washington Navy Yard, Washington DC

King Harald V of Norway

King Harald V (R) of Norway speaks during an reenactment of the 1942 ceremony in which the U.S. handed over a ship to the Royal Norwegian Navy at Washington Navy Yard September 19, 2005 in Washington, DC. |  Alex Wong/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.0 and 6.4 feet by 2100

NSF Anacostia could lose roughly 50% of its land area by end of this century. As you can imagine with a base so close to the nation’s capital, flooding would impact major U.S. defense operations, including the Defense Intelligence Agency, the DoD combat support agency that provides military intelligence information to combat and noncombat military missions, the US Naval Research Laboratory, and the White House Communications Agency. Navy contractors, engineers, lawyers, and procurement officials are also present at Washington Navy Yard.

Next: A military base facing grave danger

7. Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina

A marine recruit and his drill instructor at the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.0 to 6.4 feet by 2100

These military bases are located in the heart of South Carolina’s low country where much of the land consists of marshes. Rising sea levels would compromise national security immensely. MACS Beaufort houses one of the largest military airstrips in the world as well as Marine Corps and Navy fighter and attack squadrons. MCRD Parris Island is one of two American facilities built to train Marine recruits. Both bases are exposed to severe flooding with just a minor rise in sea levels.

Next: Flooding in just a few years

6. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia

Submarine

The USS Maryland | Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay via Facebook

  • Projected sea level rise: 3.7 to 6.1 feet by 2100

The Naval base at Kings Bay serves as the Navy’s Atlantic-based nuclear-powered submarine station as well as the Trident Training Facility that teaches sailors to operate, maintain and repair submarines. Its location on Georgia’s Intercoastal Waterway makes it a prime target for rising seas, which the UCS study says could wipe out many roadways and island barriers as soon as 2050.

Next: Money well spent

5. Cape Lisburne Long Range Radar Station, Alaska

The Arctic

The radar station’s remote Arctic location makes it vulnerable to climate change. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: unknown

The Arctic sea poses a large threat to Cape Lisburne and the Air Force long range radar station in northwest Alaska. Climate change is increasing water temperatures, thawing permafrost soils, and increasing wave action, all of which put the facility’s gravel airstrip at risk. A Department of Defense report cites a $46.8 million project already enacted to replace the damaged rock and reinforce the linear wall.

Next: A base we can’t afford to lose

4, Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia

A ship at Naval Station Norfolk,Virgina.

A ship positioned at its berth at Naval Station Norfolk.| Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nick Scott/U.S. Navy via Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.5 to 6.9 feet by 2100

NS Norfolk, home to the largest naval installation in the world, lies directly on the water. An intermediate scenario puts much of the military base underwater for about 10% of the year. Extreme high tides would flood almost 60% of the stations land area, putting the US Fleet Forces Command, which trains naval forces and defends the Atlantic Ocean and parts of the Pacific, at risk.

Next: Another base at risk of going underwater almost entirely

3. Naval Air Station Oceana Dam Neck Annex, Virginia

airplanes

Members of the VFA-81 “Sunliners” fly over the returning planes of VFA-34 “Blue Blasters” as they taxi into position for parking after returning to Oceana Naval Air Station December 19, 2002 in Virginia Beach, Virginia. |  Gary C. Knapp/Getty Images

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.5 to 6.9 feet by 2100

Much of the Dam Neck section of NAS Oceana is at risk of high seas this century. Many Nany pilots travel to Dam Neck for fleet combat and tactical training, but given that the land lies less than six feet above sea level, 75% of the land could go underwater in UCS’s most severe scenario.

Next: Seven-foot sea rise possible

2. Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia

Langley AFB

The ‘Fighter Country’ arch, a primary entrance to the flightline at Langley Air Force Base is flooded as Hurricane Isabel blows through the base September 18, 2003 in Langley, Virgina. | Ben Bloker/U.S. Air Force via Getty Images

 

  • Projected sea level rise: 4.5 to 6.9 feet by 2100

Much of this military base and the surrounding area of Newport News, Virginia falls below 10 feet above sea level. This makes much of the base vulnerable to destructive flooding. In its highest risk scenario, roughly 60% of Fort Eustis and 85% of Langley AFB would become a tidal zone susceptible to daily floods.

Given that this joint base is a major Army training center, research center, and source of combat airpower, rising seas would gravely affect national defense.

Next: The military base most vulnerable to rising seas

1. Naval Air Station Key West

NAS Key West

Naval Station Key West as Tropical Storm Fay approaches the Florida Keys August 18, 2008. | James E. Brooks/U.S. Navy via Getty Images)

  • Projected sea level rise: 3.8 to 6.2 feet by 2100

Florida’s most exposed military base is Naval Air Station Key West. UCS projects that high tides will “cover 70% to 95% of the station’s land area by 2100,” as much of its 5,800 acres of land rests no higher than three feet above sea level. A minor Category 1 Hurricane would affect 80% of the facility’s land mass and impact national security immensely.

Flooding would endanger the Key West Coast Guard sector, fighter pilot training, the Army Special Forces Underwater Training School, and The Joint Interagency Task Force South, which targets traffickers in illegal narcotics.

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