Sea level rise could cause mass migrations that will affect not just the United States’ East Coast, but reshape communities deep in the heart of the country, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change this week.
People leaving heavily populated coastal communities inundated by flooding will relocate across the U.S. by 2100, including to landlocked states such as Arizona and Wyoming that are “unprepared to accommodate this wave of coastal migrants,” the study found.
Previous research has estimated that by the end of the century, as many as 13.1 million Americans will be displaced from their homes due to sea level rise.
Nevada’s Clark County, home to Las Vegas, could experience an influx of 117,000 climate migrants by 2100, the new study found. The population in nearly every county in Wyoming will also increase, as well as in most counties in western Montana.
“We typically think about sea-level rise as being a coastal challenge or a coastal issue,” Mathew Hauer, author of the study and an expert in population projections and migration at the University of Georgia, told Reuters. “But if people have to move, they go somewhere.”