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Edited again!

My character lives in a future where some folks have moved under the sea, and sea levels have risen. There are scenes where she comes up to the dry land, and I need to describe the city she goes to.

We're in Florida - Palm Beach, after the seas have risen 3-4 feet. This map for clarity. Her OG home is built into the continental shelf, at around 450 feet (another Worldbuilding linked. Handwave people living at that depth long term). When she goes up, she finds herself in a wealthy kid's seaside backyard, so there's communities and a city/college still there.

At the point of my story, Palm Beach isn't underwater yet, but Miami is permanently flooded, and as you move south the floodwaters are getting worse.

So my question is:

What might the city look like when you’re walking around it, not just from a bird's eye view?

Would there still be palm trees or buildings standing, or have they all rotted? What does that wreckage look like? I especially would love advice about what trees and flowers would have taken over.

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  • $\begingroup$ Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. $\endgroup$
    – Community Bot
    May 5, 2023 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ 3 to 4 foots is about 1.2 meters. Amsterdam, "the capital and most populous city of the Netherlands" (Wikipedia) is at 2 meters (7 foots) below sea level. Right now, not in the distant future. The point being that how Miami would look like depends on whether the Dutch will or will not buy it cheap when the United States of America, the richest and most powerful country in the world, decides to abandon it. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    May 5, 2023 at 19:26
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    $\begingroup$ see for yourself coast.noaa.gov/slr/#/layer/slr/0/-9145622.685457915/… $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 5, 2023 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure on the Buildings, but I'm pretty sure that Florida man will be telling the waves to get back with an American flag draped on his shoulders and an AR-style rifle points at the sea. $\endgroup$ May 6, 2023 at 5:39
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    $\begingroup$ @TheDemonLord ...or busy sacrificing the woke menace who obviously caused this in the first place, but being unable to actually mention rising sea levels because it was made illegal to do so following the success of banning "global warming" and "climate change". $\endgroup$ May 6, 2023 at 7:59

3 Answers 3

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Water Water Everywhere


Palm trees and buildings will still be standing in the early stages of flooding. Generally speaking, land plants and sea water don't get along very well, so the trees will die off eventually. Buildings will eventually rot and crumble, though well built structures will survive a very long time.


In the early stages, lower floors will of course be flooded, as will streets. Some infrastructure might still be functional. People can easily navigate the former streets by boat. Foundations and streets will of course suffer degradation as the soil becomes saturated.


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If left unchecked, infrastructure will fail. If people are willing to live without electricity, running water, and sewer, it is conceivable that a well built city could continue to see habitation, somewhat like Venice (the real Venice). Electricity service in buildings would need to be improved somewhat (top-down wiring, no meters or electrical boxes in the water). Water could possibly be raised up and brought in by raised pipes. Sewer, relying on gravity, will be a problem.


Eventually, as the waters rise sufficiently, they will ruin the city. Wood will rot, iron will rust, stone and concrete will be undermined. The city of Epicuen, in Argentina, is a good case study. It was once (not long ago) a thriving town. It got flooded, and now the waters have receded, revealing the damage done.


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    $\begingroup$ This is incredibly helpful - thank you so much!! It's literally exactly what I'm looking for - a visual example I can draw from. $\endgroup$
    – E. Delaney
    May 7, 2023 at 5:30
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Really the buildings might be closer to the beach, but not excessively so. It's going to be a problem up and down the coast (With exception to Orlando, almost every major Florida City is coastal.). While Florida is considered the Flattest State in the Union, it's not the state with the lowest average height above sea level. That honor goes to Delaware, which has a mean height of 60 feet above Sea Level. Florida has a mean height of 100 feet above sea level and it's highest point is Britton Hill in Paxton Florida, which Peaks at 345 feet above Sea level. Judging by your map, most of the land east of I-95 will still be high and dry above Lake Okeechobee. If there are still Miami would likely have been mostly abandoned, though assuming that you can build large communities under the ocean, you should have the ability to construct large sea walls to prevent the flooding. Fort Lauderdale is probably now an island... if it hasn't been flooded.

That said, Florida is a massive state. It's the 8th largest by land area, and 3rd by population. What's more, it's got plenty of room for more people. Flordia's current population is extremely recent. For much of it's history, it was too hot and humid to be a desirable place to live (until the air conditioning made it bearable). What's more, with exception to Orlando, most of Florida's major population centers are coastal. Miami, for a major city, is a really small area comparatively. As you go further north, urban development west of I-95 (The eastern most Interstate and one quite close to the coast in Florida drops off), to the point that by the time you hit Melbourne (4 hours drive north from Miami, 1:30-1:45 East from Disney) there's almost no property development past 95. Driving North, your right side of the highway will have a lot of development and your left side is empty swamp and grassland.

Alligators would not be endangered. In fact, as of writing, alligators are listed by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern and were removed from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife's list of Endangered species in 1987. This is inspite of the fact that Alligators were hunted for their leather from the 1800s and 1900s in numbers that devastated the population. Critical changes include the fact that Alligators are actually farmable and the demand for gator leather has go down (it had a huge popularity spike in the 1890s). They're also not aggressive compared to the American Crocodile (You still don't want to approach one, but most people living in Gator country are not alarmed to see one up close... with Floridians being famous for their exceptionally calm reaction to a surprisingly close Alligator within their small back yard. Alligators are ambush predators and wait for their prey to approach them... so as long as you don't get close, a Gator won't run at you) and while gator attacks are on the rise, it's more because gator populations are rising, not because humans are encroaching in their territory. Alligators. In fact, Alligators can be found as far north as the Atlantic Coast as South Caroline and as far East along the Gulf Coast as Texas... There are also reports of breeding populations of Alligators in Oklahoma and Southwestern Tennessee. While they are more common around inland bodies of freshwater, they have been observed eating sharks and rays. Alligators might not be aggressive... but they are not picky eaters when they get food... or things they think could be food.

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    $\begingroup$ This is so useful, thank you! Fair point about the sea wall, and the development. Any insight on plants that would thrive in formerly-developed flood areas? $\endgroup$
    – E. Delaney
    May 5, 2023 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ @E.Delaney whatever lives on the coast now, sediment and plants take over quick. $\endgroup$
    – John
    May 5, 2023 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ @E.Delaney I would imagine Mangrove trees would fill in the water ways between what islands that were once southern Florida. Since this area would be about 4 feet of brackish or saline water, this would likely see expansion of Black, White, and Red Mangrove, the latter two are only found in this part of the state. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    May 8, 2023 at 12:03
  • $\begingroup$ @hszmv thank you! Love a good mango, did not know the tip about the white and red ones being rare, and that'll be a good marker for location. $\endgroup$
    – E. Delaney
    May 8, 2023 at 17:15
  • $\begingroup$ Not Mango. Mangrove. It's a type of tree that typically has it's exposed above the water. And the Red and White Magroves aren't rare. They just only grow below 29 degrees North, which is only the parts of Florida below Lake Okeechobee. They have a range throught the keys and Caribbean and the Bahamas. $\endgroup$
    – hszmv
    May 8, 2023 at 18:05
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I have one word... just one word for you... mold

Molds are very common in buildings and homes. Mold will grow in places with a lot of moisture, such as around leaks in roofs, windows, or pipes, or where there has been flooding. Mold grows well on paper products, cardboard, ceiling tiles, and wood products. Mold can also grow in dust, paints, wallpaper, insulation, drywall, carpet, fabric, and upholstery.

I upvoted @elemtilas' answer and so should you. That's a great example of what someone might expect to see walking through a waterlogged city. But there's one thing that will cause no end of trouble.

Mold.

Human homes already have mold problems. Heat + moisture + food source = mold. And human homes are filled with food sources for the pestiferous stuff.

Mold would be growing almost everywhere not directly exposed to sunlight. Especially on surfaces not yet reduced to rock or concrete. People trying to live in the area would be subject to serious and potentially deadly respiratory illnesses.

Yeah... mold.

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