It’s one thing to think about climate change in an abstract sense, and another thing altogether to be able to visualize the potential damage in unflinching terms. 

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If a category 5 hurricane were to hit Florida's Dry Tortugas in 2050, it would likely wind up completely underwater, according to calculations by the National Park Service. Image: Matt Munro/Lonely Planet

To clearly illustrate the precarious position of some of America’s national parks, the folks at the Center for Investigative Reporting’s online platform, Reveal, examined the data to measure threat levels for major weather events that could hit in 2050, creating an interactive map detailing current high tides and predicting potential flood zones if disaster were to strike. “Researchers contracted by the National Park Service have projected that if greenhouse gases keep growing, some iconic national parks could be partially or totally underwater,” write Kavya Sukumar and Elizabeth Shogren.  

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It would only take a category 3 to sink the National Mall, though the Washington Monument would probably still stand tall. Image: vicnaire/Budget Travel

The East Coast looks to be the most vulnerable area. Off the coast of Massachusetts, Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area could lose quite a bit of ground if a category 4 hurricane were to occur. Little Brewster Island and its iconic Boston Light—the country’s first lighthouse—would be completely submerged, and on the mainland, so would Logan International Airport and much of the city itself. In D.C., the Washington Monument would probably survive a category 3, but the Lincoln Memorial and the rest of the National Mall wouldn’t be so lucky.

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America's first lighthouse could fall victim to a category 4 hurricane. Image: Greg Kushmerek/Shutterstock

Further north, at Cape Cod National Seashore, a category 3 hurricane would put the entire hamlet of Provincetown – one of the coolest small towns in the country – underwater, while down in Florida, the Dry Tortugas and its landmark 19th-century fortification, Fort Jefferson, would be sunk by a category 5. 

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Provincetown, Budget Travel's pick for this year's coolest small town, would be totally submerged if a category 3 were to strike. Image: DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images

But the West Coast isn’t immune to the threat either. Though much of Golden Gate National Recreation Area would stand its ground in the case of a big storm or unusually high tide developing on the warming Pacific, Marin County’s Stinson Beach would face erosion and erasure. In Texas, Padre Island National Seashore too would be in trouble, as a category 5 hurricane would leave the entire stretch underwater. 

To explore all 10 locations, check out the map at  

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People watch the the traditional regatta for the opening of the 2019 Venice Carnival on February 17, 2019 in Venice, Italy. The theme for the 2019 edition of Venice Carnival is 'Blame the Moon!' and will run from the 16th of February to 5th of March 2019  (Photo by Matteo Chinellato/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
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