Atlantic City is one of the most flood-vulnerable coastal cities, report finds

A new study published in Nature measures whether land across 32 U.S. coastline cities is sinking or rising, and combines it with sea-level projections.

Listen 1:19
Atlantic City N.J.

A July 11, 2014 aerial photo shows the Atlantic City N.J. shoreline. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry)

This story is part of the WHYY News Climate Desk, bringing you news and solutions for our changing region.

From the Poconos to the Jersey Shore to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, what do you want to know about climate change? What would you like us to cover? Get in touch.

Atlantic City is one of the most flood-vulnerable coastal cities in the U.S., according to a new study in Nature that aims to more accurately predict flooding impacts.

The study uses satellite data to measure whether land across 32 U.S. coastline cities is sinking or rising and combines it with sea-level projections.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The researchers say it’s important to evaluate the sinking of coastal land areas, because it can exacerbate the impacts of sea-level rise and flooding. It’s a factor “often underrepresented in coastal-management policies and long-term urban planning,” according to the researchers.

Ignoring data about sinking land can lead to inaccurate flooding exposure projections, the researchers say.

The study finds that when using land data, about 9,700 Atlantic City homes are predicted to be exposed to flooding by 2050. That’s 2,700 more homes than what’s estimated with standard sea-level rise projections.

“Sea-level rise is real — and people know that because they’re seeing flooding happening more and more frequently,” said Bob Kopp, a climate scientist at Rutgers University who helped review the paper.

“We have to figure out how we want to deal with that, and where it makes sense to protect places, and where we might want to think about relocating away from.”

In addition to sitting on a barrier island, land in Atlantic City may be sinking faster because of human activities such as pumping groundwater, he said.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Kopp added that it’s important not to ignore the risk of sea-level rise for the sake of propping up housing markets.

“We have real risks, and those are things that people who are buying homes or living in homes in coastal areas have to deal with — where people who’ve lived on the shore for generations and are maybe lower-middle income, we have to think about the equity issues,” he said.

“Where high-income people are buying new mansions along the shore, they have to bear in mind the risk that they are taking on.”

According to Lending Tree, New Jersey is the coastal state with the highest expected annual building value loss at more than $605 million.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal