Inland cities in the United States could face stress from migration caused by sea levels rising, says a new study.

According to models created by researchers at the University of Georgia, about 13.1 million people from low-lying cities such as Miami could be forced to relocate because of rising sea levels. Top destinations, researchers say, would be Atlanta, Houston and Phoenix.

“We typically think about sea level rise as a coastal issue, but if people are forced to move because their houses become inundated, the migration could affect many landlocked communities as well,” said the study’s lead author, Mathew Hauer, of the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of geography.

The researchers say the study is a first to try to predict the impact of rising sea levels, taking into account populations at risk as well as likely migration patterns.

The study suggests that inland cities, as well as coastal areas, have to plan for the potential of higher sea levels.

“Some of the anticipated landlocked destinations, such as Las Vegas, Atlanta and Riverside, California, already struggle with water management or growth management challenges,” Hauer said. “Incorporating accommodation strategies in strategic long-range planning could help alleviate the potential future intensification of these challenges.”

The study was published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

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