Sea Level Rise Map for NYC

Lab Reports, Maps


Climate change has always been a topic of concern around the world, especially in recent years. Temperature is getting higher and higher, which leads to a rise in sea level. In my lab research, I would like to visualize future sea levels and floodplains in New York City. Hopefully, it could bring more attention to climate change.


I got my inspiration from a graph created by NASA( In this graphic, different colors are used to visualize the sea levels in the future. It is valuable for readers and researchers to understand how fast will the sea level rise. In my lab, I would also want to create a similar graph.

Fig 1. Map of NYC areas vulnerable to sea-level rise

Tools and Datasets



  • Carto: An online platform providing GIS and web mapping services. It’s helpful to analyze and visualize map datasets.


First of all, I downloaded the serious of datasets from NYC Open Data and imported them into Carto. There are four datasets about sea levels, two for the 2020s and others for the 2050s. According to, the 100-year floodplain is the land that is predicted to flood during a 100-year storm, which has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year; a 500-year-floodplain has a chance of 0.2%. To make it more easy for users to learn the whole story, I combined the four maps in one file. I arranged the map layers by the year so that readers could see the changes in the potential sea levels. I applied different shades of blue for the 100-year floodplain and orange for the 500-year floodplain.

Then I came across a problem. I found out that the visualization of the sea level was not in a curvy shape. It looked a little bit buggy with a boundary made up by squares. In order to solve this problem, I downloaded another shapefile called Borough Boundaries from NYC Gov. I tried to clip my map layers using the Borough Boundaries shape. I searched for some references online, but I got no luck since the coding part was complicated. Then I decided to use color and border to make the map look nicer. I applied a black background to the map and dark blue color for the top layer. I tried to make them in close shades to blur the square boundary. I also applied a thick white border for the Borough Boundaries to highlight the curvy boundary. 


Below is the final result of my map. We can find out by 2050, there could be a chance for part of New York to be covered by water, especially the southern part. 

Fig 2. Overview of the sea-level rise map

Fig 3. Part of the sea-level rise map


Carto is a very powerful tool for map data visualization. I can analyze a large dataset with it. But I would like it to be more user-friendly. When I tried to arrange these layers and assign different colors to them, I got a hard time to match the same layers between the layer list part and the map part.

When working with the graphs, sometimes it could be helpful to use colors to improve it. I got stuck on the boundary first, but changing colors helped me a lot visually.