If climate models are correct, then Hurricane Sandy, and the flooding it brought, gave us a gentle preview of the not-so-distant future.
A recent NASA study found that between 1992 and 2012, global sea levels rose, on average, a little more than one inch each decade or about 3 millimeters per year. That's much faster than climatologists had expected.
The trend is not reversing.
Rising sea levels make coastal areas, particularly those with dense populations, much more vulnerable to heavy flooding.
The day when continents are overtaken by seawater may seem far off, but the threat is very real.
Nickolay Lamm, from StorageFront.com, wants the world to know just how real.
The artist and researcher created sea-level-rise maps depicting what major U.S. monuments would look like over the next century if we continue on a business-as-usual track.
You may have have seen Lamm's work featured on Business Insider before. He recently illustrated how to make Google Glass look fashionable and what the child of Prince William and Princess Catherine will look like all grown up.
For his sea level project, Lamm collaborated with Remik Ziemlinski, who did research and created sea level maps for "The New York Times."
The hypothetical scenes show icons like the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument, and depict four levels of flooding at each: 0 feet (today); 5 feet (possible in 100 to 300 years); 12 feet (possible by about 2300); and 25 feet (possible in the coming centuries).
"I want people to look at these images and understand that the places they value most may very well be lost to future generations if climate change isn't a bigger priority on our minds," Lamm told Business Insider. "These illustrations are not based off wild Hollywood scenarios, but sea level rise maps from Climate Central."
An artist at work
Each scene took anywhere from five to 15 hours to create, said Lamm. First, Lamm had to find a stock photo which, according to the sea level rise maps generated by Ziemlinski, would be affected by extreme flooding in the future. Then he used Google Earth to figure out exactly where the photo was taken in order to be able to label the streets, roads, and pathways visible in the photo.
Using the sea level rise maps, Lamm estimated where the flooding would be in the stock photo.
He used topography maps to determine the correct depth of the flooding in each scene. All of this was drawn by hand in Photoshop using a physical pencil that translates the brush strokes to a touch sensitive surface, Lamm said.
In the following slideshow, each sea level rise map precedes the "real-world view." A white triangle in the maps represents where the "camera" is positioned in the illustrations. The blue shading represents the amount of sea level rise. After these maps are shown, we see what this camera is viewing in real life.
For Lamm, these haunting images are more than just a fun project. "We are trying to show that 'Space is Limited,' he said. "Not just for our personal belongings, but for the places in which we live."