Fact Check: Is Climate Map Showing U.S. Submerged Underwater by 2052 Real?

As droughts and floods impact states across the U.S., many Americans are experiencing first-hand what appear to be some of the real-world effects of climate change.

The climate crisis has been somewhat overshadowed by more pressing national and international concerns, including rising gas prices and the war in Ukraine, as global oil shortages and trade embargos shake up the energy markets.

But activists and scientists are urging the U.S. government not to ignore the environment in favor of these other priorities, with concern that time is running out for effective action on climate change.

However, while grounded in science, the surrounding anxieties about climate change may still manifest in misinformation, as recent posts on social media have shown.

Flooding America
A firefighter carries a woman from her car after it was caught in street flooding as a powerful storm moves across Southern California on February 17, 2017 in Sun Valley, California and inset from Google Maps. Getty/Google Maps

The Claim

A tweet, with more than 100,000 engagements, claims scientists have created a map showing what the U.S. will look like in 2052 if the effects of climate change aren't reversed.

The Facts

There are plenty of shocking and troubling predictions already about what America may look like in the future unless immediate action is taken to address climate change.

In February 2022, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it is increasingly likely that the sea level along the U.S. coastline will rise by two feet between now and 2100 because of emissions to date, adding that failure to curb emissions may cause an additional 1.5-5 foot increase.

In 2019, researchers said that America's southwest may experience "megadroughts that last for decades," with evidence suggesting that most states in the south from Florida to Arizona will face more powerful, but perhaps less frequent hurricanes.

Despite plentiful, credible scientific opinion that strongly encourages reductions in harmful emissions and other environmental markers, the image and claims in the tweet are a fabrication.

Although it's not clear if the image is meant as a climate-skeptic joke or an attempt to drum up support for environmental causes, the picture contains writing in small text, visible when zooming in, that says "Mediterranean Sea of America".

Looking around the coastal borders in the picture, you can spot a number of familiar cartographic landmarks of the Med, such as the "boot" of Italy.

A reverse image search reveals that the map was first published in a Tumblr blog post, in December 2015.

The author cites their need "to understand the world we live in, explore new things, see the things that we in America are so far removed from" as the motive for the project: "Well, I was examining maps and globes and realized that the Mediterranean Sea is at the same Latitude as the United States. If only it were possible to rotate the Mediterranean Sea around to our side of the planet? Would it fit? What effect would this have? What about the states... new coastlines in the middle of the country... new relationships... states torn in pieces?

"A couple of screen captures, lots of graphic manipulation and now we know. The Mediterranean Sea fits within the confines of the United States of America."

While the image in the tweet is mislabeled, other researchers have tried to create realistic projections of climate change's effects on the U.S, using maps to illustrate their analysis.

In 2019, the McHarg Center at the University of Pennsylvania used projected and up-to-date sources to literally map the potential fate of the U.S by 2100. Among these were the meteorological changes which (unlike the tweet) project a greater likelihood of floods in the central north-east, north-west, east, and south-east states.

Many in the U.S. continue to experience weather-related micro-crises, which have been linked to climate change.

Large regions of the western United States are currently being impacted by a megadrought that started in 2000. States affected include California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Nevada as well as Texas, Oklahoma, Utah, Montana, and New Mexico.

This in turn precipitates other dangers, such as a heightened risk of forest fires outside of the summer season.

Some strides are being made to curb emissions, with reports that solar and wind sources produced more energy in April 2022 than nuclear power; it is the first time they have created more electricity than their clean energy counterpart.

The Ruling

Fact Check - False

False.

The image in the tweet shows what is clearly the outline of the Mediterranean sea overlaid on a map of the U.S. Climate scientists still project that there will be a greater likelihood of mass flooding and rising sea levels in the future, the latter of which could push coastal communities under the water. However, there appears to be no evidence that a sea like the Mediterranean would form in the center of the U.S. as a result of climate change.

FACT CHECK BY Newsweek's fact checking team

False: The claim is demonstrably false. Primary source evidence proves the claim to be false.
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