The Reason These Famous American Beaches Could Disappear Soon
There’s nothing quite like a summer day at the beach, and Americans have their pick when the weather gets warm. From the Gulf Coast to Long Island and all the way out to Southern California, few countries can boast so many miles of seashore.
Yet some of America’s best beaches might not be around for future generations to enjoy. As rising sea levels combine with an increase in heavy rains, the days of many great U.S. cities are numbered. Naturally, the same goes for the sandy stretches of land where people have built their lives or taken vacations for decades.
Research published in August 2017 showed sea levels rising six times faster from 2011-15 than they did in coastal areas from 1996-2010. Clearly, things can’t continue this way without losing some of our gems. Here are 10 of most famous American beaches that could disappear in the coming decades.
1. Fort Lauderdale
When Climate Central looked at the cities most vulnerable to serious flooding in 2017, Fort Lauderdale sat at No. 8 on the list. By 2050, it would rank fourth, with 127,000 people at risk from a major storm.
That’s partially because of the rapidly rising sea level in southeastern Florida. This area has also been dealing with beach erosion for decades, making it a long-shot when it comes to lasting into the next century.
Next: This iconic L.A. beach is already playing defense.
2. Santa Monica State Beach
When it comes to Los Angeles, nothing can beat Santa Monica Beach for its accessibility and proximity to the center of town. Landmarks abound in this 3.5-mile stretch of sand: The Santa Monica Pier, Muscle Beach, and Casa Del Mar Hotel (built 1926) all call it home.
Even though this beach has a remarkable amount of yardage between coastline and street, erosion and rising sea levels have begun to shrink its width. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) chart sea-level rise here at 1.5 millimeters per year.
That’s among the highest in California, and a beach restoration project launched in 2016 aims to slow the progress.
Next: Beaches in the Northeast are just as vulnerable.
3. Narragansett Beach
Every summer, the small town of Narragansett, Rhode Island sees its population doubled (to over 30,000). It’s no mystery why: Area beaches are worth the trip, and the coastal state has a $5 billion tourism industry.
In a 2017 Yale Climate Connections report, local conservation specialists spoke of things threatening the beaches of Narragansett and the rest of the state. Among them are “heavy rain events,” which wash chemicals into the ocean and force beaches to close.
More generally, warming air and sea temperatures have brought increased seaweed and jellyfish populations, making these beaches less pleasant to visit.
Next: This Florida jewel is among the most at-risk from climate change.
4. Miami Beach
What is Florida without Miami Beach? We may have to answer that question in the coming decades if rising sea levels and erosion continue apace.
Miami Beach remains among the 10 most vulnerable places to flooding in the country. Meanwhile, it’s run out of sand, and the billions already spent on beach restoration in Florida have been washed away over the past decades.
Next: One of the beaches that define Southern California
5. La Jolla, San Diego
If you’re looking for an epic Southern California beach, you can’t ask for much more than La Jolla in San Diego. Its mile-long stretch includes 300-foot cliffs, a wide shoreline, and protected coves for swimming.
But La Jolla also has a sea-level problem: It’s gone up 6 inches since 1924. In our age of accelerated change (measured by the foot), seeing the waterline pushed to the cliffs is a possibility in our lifetime.
Next: Watch $30 million get swept out to sea.
6. Folly Beach, South Carolina
When the $30-million beach replenishment project on South Carolina’s coast was completed in 2015, it didn’t last long. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says all that sand has disappeared from the impact of Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Irma.
So another $11 million will be devoted to the cause in 2018. You can read stories about Matthew destroying a local man’s 250-foot dock — only before Irma crushed the one he replaced it with the following year — on Charleston Harbor.
But you won’t hear Governor McMaster speak about the driving forces behind it. (He supported U.S. withdrawal from the international climate accord.) Maybe that’s why they call it Folly Beach.
Next: Tampa’s beaches will continue to shrink in the coming decades.
7. Clearwater Beach, Tampa
While southeastern Florida faces some of the fastest-rising sea-levels in the country, its west coast isn’t far behind. Tampa is among the cities that will be affected most by climate change in the coming decades.
As far as vacation and leisure spots go, Clearwater Beach is among the spots where the shoreline will disappear. The Tampa Bay Estuarine, meanwhile, would be devastated by even a few feet of rising seas.
Next: America’s Playground doesn’t have a bright future.
8. Atlantic City
All the great South Jersey Beaches, from Brigantine to Cape May, would be devastated by 3-4 feet worth of sea rise. If it goes beyond those levels, much of Atlantic City will be gone.
Unfortunately for “America’s Playground,” that destiny is well within the forecast over the next decades. By 2050, 28,000 Atlantic City residents could be affected, according to flood maps. In a town of 38,000, that doesn’t leave too many comfort zones.
Next: When Hollywood stars pay for the sand, the beach lasts longer.
9. Broad Beach, Malibu
Pierce Brosnan and Dustin Hoffman are a few of the names of people with homes on Malibu’s rapidly disappearing Broad Beach. When residents agreed to fund a $31 million restoration project in 2015, it appeared that money could buy more time for a beloved vacation spot.
However, the price tag skyrocketed to upwards of $60 million every 10 years by 2017. Even the world’s richest people balked at that cost, and lawsuits against the organization handling the project are pending.
In 20 years, this elite group of homeowners has seen its formerly “broad” bit of coastline become narrow. Without massive funding, it won’t last.
Next: This North Carolina gem has already seen huge changes in its shoreline.
10. Cape Hatteras
To gauge the situation in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, look no further than the iconic lighthouse built on the coast in 1870. On that date, it stood 1,500 feet from the ocean, a National Geographic report showed. In 1999, the waterline sat 120 feet from the lighthouse, and officials moved it inland to protect it.
On the Outer Banks, expect more calls for nourishment projects like the $36 million Nags Head spent on sand in 2011. Also, in another U.S. state where climate change isn’t accepted like it is around the world, expect more calls to ban projections about rising sea levels.
On Cape Hatteras, locals are battling the ignorance of people in power along with the ravages of beach erosion and higher sea levels. With all that stacked against it, North Carolina’s jewel may face the greatest danger of any beach in America.
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