In the north of Portugal, sea lvel rise causes masssive land loss along the Atlantic coast. The building that has become the most emblematic for the situation along Portugal’s coast are the Torres de Ofir, three towers set between the Cavado river and the ocean front in Esposende, about an hour north of Porto. The Portuguese hydrobiologist and researcher at the Abel Salazar Institute Adriano Bordalo e Sá made the following statement which has become much quoted by the press: ” “Se vivêssemos num país a sério, as torres de Ofir há muito teriam sido demolidas / If we were a serious country, the towers would have been demolished long ago.”
Depending on how the photo is taken, the three towers appear more or less vulnerable to the ocean. Some photo journalists have even opted for a tilted perspective, making the scene appear a bit more dramatic. Here is a selection of recent and historic photos. Clearly the Torres de Ofir are an infamous and much publicized example of the kind of problematic coastal architecture in times of rising sea level.
FloodZone is an ongoing photographic series by Anastasia Samoylova, responding to the environmental changes in coastal cities of South Florida. The project began in Miami in 2016, when Samoylova moved to the area and experience living in a tropical environment for the first time. The works display in an impressive way the ambivalences and the fluid frontiers between city and sea in a community exposed to frequent floodings. I am particularly impressed how artist Samoylova expands the topic and visual themes onto popular imagery and the everyday in the urban scenery.
As extrem weather events in coastal areas intensify and multiply, marine life comes closer to the city. Among the social media posts during hurricane Ian in September/October 2022 posts about marine mammals like sharks or orca whales in the streets were very popular. This seems to be a new theme in flooding stories. And it might be a foreshadowing of an altered relationship between city and ocean due to climate change. City people might have to get used to living in much closer contact with marine population and thus rethink their relationship on ethical and political levels.
This is an image of a shark in a street in Fort Myers (FL). For a plausibility check of this tweet see: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/video-shark-fort-myers-street/
Also Miami Beach (FL) had it’s cohabitation moment go viral online one year before. In 2019 a resident posted pictures of an octopus swimming through a parking garage.
The Miami Herald quotes University of Miami associate biology professor Kathleen Sullivan Sealey: “She said Miami Beach residents ought to get used to seeing strange new creatures making sporadic appearances as rising sea levels push ocean waters deeper and more frequently onto land, along with some of the creatures that live in them.”
There is an optical phenomenon called looming in which objects at sea appear to be floating in the air above water level. In Spring 2021 such an image photographed went viral online.
Apparently this phenomenon was well known throughout history among coastal communities as it appears as a sign for bad luck in legends and myths. Along the German North Sea coast it is a common superstition that loomings announce severe floods and houses or cities that are seen that way will be submerged and lost. (see the post on vineta) It’s interesting to note that in the superstition the city is first elevated above and then submerged under the sea level.
This image is also a case of looming:
It shows lake Michigan apparently with the skyline of Chicago in the distance. The accompanying text reads: “Due to the curvature of the earth, the city isn’t visible over the lake from here: the image is a refraction of the real skyline projected above the horizon. Like the boat in David Morris’s image, this is an example of ‘looming.”
According to the National Geographic article, similar illusions of floating cities also appear on land, particularly in arctic regions due to the extreme temperatures. During the gold rush in the 19. Century, reports of mysterious cityscapes became very popular. agical cities foating Cities floating above ground are also a popular topic in science fiction literature and film. There are numerous reports of travelers seeing city skylines appear out of the fog or above the ground, ofter referred to as “Silent Cities”. Read the full article here.
There are many projects for the visualisation of the effects of rising sea levels. The US-American company Climate Central presents dozens of photo-realistic images of potentially flooded areas. Like the flooded Super Bowl Stadium in Florida:
They even offer animated gifs and other before-after-imagery. In this example a section of Hamburg in Germany now (left side) and 50 years from now (right).
A different approach is the speculative cartography by designer Jeffrey Linn. His “retrofuture” maps appear like antiques but depict future scenarios. In this case, a partially flooded San Francisco Bay. His work is for sale here