ReportApril 2, 2021

Future Flood Risk: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway


Accelerating sea level rise has increased the quantity and severity of floods in communities around the country. Quantifying coastal flood risk allows individuals, businesses, and communities located along coastlines to plan for sea level rise and increased flooding due to climate change.

Climate Central used its public and proprietary tools to assess the current and future coastal flood risk to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway. The Byway is a 125-mile, self guided, scenic tour, originating along Maryland’s Eastern Shore and ending in Philadelphia.

The 45 sites along the Byway include the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center, historic sites connected to the underground trail along which Tubman guided nearly 70 enslaved people to freedom, as well as wildlife refuges and other cultural or environmental places of interest.

Since much of the Byway is situated only a few feet above sea level, coastal flooding already poses a significant risk to many of these sites. As the climate continues to warm and sea levels rise, the risk of flooding to these historic sites will increase dramatically.

Tubman Byway Map Image


Using coordinates from the Byway map and our proprietary Portfolio Analysis Tool, Climate Central screened sites along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway for coastal flood risk. The screen found that 16 of the Byway locations are exposed to at least occasional flood risk by 2050, and 25 are exposed by the end of the century. Ten of the locations show chronic flood risk currently, meaning that these sites are expected to experience a flood risk event at least annually. A flood risk event occurs when nearby coastal water levels exceed the elevation of a location and there is an unobstructed pathway for the water to reach that site.

These findings assume heat trapping emissions continue unchecked (the RCP 8.5 scenario). Results for lower emissions scenarios are similar, as there is not a significant difference in projected sea level rise between different emissions scenarios until the second half of the century due to the lag between emissions, warming, and sea level rise.

Using this first screen, we took a more in-depth look at 10 sites to better quantify the risk these historically and environmentally significant locations are facing from sea level rise and climate change.

Please click here to read or download the full report (PDF)