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Sea-level rise could flood hundreds of millions more than expected

Far more people are living closer to the ocean than previously believed, a new study suggests. And that's bad news.

The prospect: Researchers have warned for years now that rising oceans will have flooded the lands where tens of millions of people live, as accelerating climate change warms the waters and melts ice sheets. But a new study out of Princeton says it looks like they have been undercounting, due to errors in elevation models. 

Better model: Many estimates rely on a map of the planet produced from a radarsystem that flew on board NASA’s space shuttle Endeavour in 2000. But that model had skewed estimates of the elevation, particularly in densely vegetated or populated areas. The team used better lidar data to train machine learning to improve this model.

A new estimate: It looks like the number of people exposed to rising tides might be in the hundreds of millions. That’s three to four times more people than previously projected. If the study is right, then it will dramatically increase the damages and casualties from sea-level rise, swell the costs of adaption efforts like constructing higher seawalls, and escalate mass migration away from the coasts. Read the full story.

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