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North Carolina and the Surging Sea

Ben Strauss, Claudia Tebaldi, and Scott Kulp
Created: 12/29/2015 - Updated: 5/31/2019


Sea levels are rising at an accelerating rate, and the scientific community is confident that global warming is the most important cause. Higher sea levels translate to more and higher coastal floods. To forecast future risk, this analysis integrates historic local sea level trends and flood statistics with global sea level rise scenarios, developed by a multi-agency federal task force led by NOAA in support of the recent U.S. National Climate Assessment. Under mid-range projections, floods exceeding today’s historic records are likely to take place throughout North Carolina within the next 50 years.

The state has an astonishing more than 2,500 miles of road below 4 feet, plus 15 schools; 108 houses of worship; and 131 EPA-listed sites such as hazardous waste dumps and sewage plants. At 8 feet, these numbers grow to more than 5,000 miles of road, 45 schools, 233 houses of worship, and 267 EPA-listed sites.

This report is being released as a high-level summary of findings and methods, coincident with the online launch of a Surging Seas Risk Finder tool for the state, providing much more detailed and localized findings, and accessible via

Published On

Monday, September 1, 2014


Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Infrastructure damage
Sea level rise
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Capacity Building
Conduct vulnerability assessments and studies
Infrastructure, Planning, and Development
Community Planning (developing climate-smart communities)
Governance and Policy
Develop / implement adaptation plans
Develop / implement adaptive management strategies
Sociopolitical Setting: 

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