South Carolina and the Surging Sea

Claudia Tebaldi, Scott Kulp
Posted on: 12/29/2015 - Updated on: 3/06/2020

Posted by

Tera Johnson



Floods exceeding today’s historic records are likely to take place within the next 20-30 years in the Hilton Head and Myrtle Beach areas, about 3.5 feet above the local high tide line, under mid-range sea level rise projections. Low-range projections lead to an at least 50 percent chance of extreme floods exceeding 4 feet above the high tide line within roughly half a century, at sites across the state. Under high-range projections, there is an at least 50 percent chance of floods above 9 feet by end of century.

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.

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


Strauss, B., C. Tebaldi, S. Kulp, S. Cutter, C. Emrich, D. Rizza, and D. Yawitz (2014). South Carolina and the Surging Sea: A vulnerability assessment with projections for sea level rise and coastal flood risk. Climate Central Research Report. pp 1-29.

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