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Virginia and the Surging Sea

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


Floods exceeding today’s historic records are likely to take place within the next 20 to 30 years at sites across Virginia under mid-range sea level rise projections. Low-range projections lead to a more than even chance of floods exceeding 5 feet above the high tide line in the same time frame for the Washington, DC and Hampton Roads areas, and by 2080 on the eastern shore and near the mouth of the Potomac Under high-range projections, at each site in this study there is a more than 90% chance of flooding above 9 feet this century.

Delmarva as a whole includes some 183,000 people, 116,000 homes, $42 billion in property value, 3,400 miles of roads, and 401 EPA-listed sites on 582,000 acres of unprotected land below 5 feet. At this level, Virginia faces roughly twice the threat of any of its Delmarva neighbors for population and a third more homes, but, by small margins, Maryland faces greater threats to property value, road miles and EPA-listed sites. At 9 feet, Virginia has the most exposure for all of these variables.

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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