10 Major U.S. Cities Expected to Face the Worst Climate Effects by 2050

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As record-breaking heat, rising sea levels, and more frequent devastating storms and wildfires become increasingly evident, the impacts of climate change are impossible to ignore. Policygenius has analyzed the largest urban areas in the U.S., assessing various climate change indicators to identify which cities are most vulnerable to climate change by 2050.

Houston, Texas


Houston, with a population of 2,302,878, is preparing for a wide range of climate-related risks, including extreme heat, poor air quality, flooding, and sea level rise. The city is expected to see 85 days of extreme heat annually by 2050. Additionally, air quality concerns persist, with only 44% of days in 2021 having “good” air quality. 

The diversity of weather challenges was highlighted by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and an unusual winter storm in 2021, which disrupted the electrical grid and left millions without power, showcasing Houston’s extreme vulnerability to both heat and cold extremes.

Los Angeles, California


Los Angeles, the densely populated metropolis housing 3,822,238 people, grapples with significant air quality and natural disaster risks. The city’s air quality was rated “good” on only 15% of days in 2021. 

High risks of wildfires, intensified by the congested shipping ports, contribute to the chronic smog and pollution. The American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of the Air” report awarded Los Angeles an F grade, citing 112 unhealthy ozone days and naming it the smoggiest city in the nation.

Riverside, California


Riverside, home to 320,764 residents, is notably challenged by severe air quality issues and rising temperatures. Positioned 60 miles east of Los Angeles within the industrially dense Inland Empire, the city is projected to experience the most extreme heat days of any U.S. city by 2050—about 178 days each year. 

Wildfires frequently exacerbate the already poor air quality, with a mere 20% of days in 2021 rated as “good.” The impact on public health is stark; for example, the average family in Riverside spends $4,008 annually—7% of their income—on asthma treatments due to the polluted air, as reported by Congressman Mark Takano.

Memphis, Tennessee


Memphis, with a population of 621,056, faces mounting risks from extreme weather conditions. By 2050, the city is expected to endure 63 days of extreme heat annually and about 49 days of intense heat coupled with high humidity. 

The escalating temperatures contribute to the city’s vulnerability to natural disasters. A vivid example of these challenges occurred in June when severe thunderstorms and winds caused $25 million in damage and widespread power outages.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

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With a population of 455,618, the city is facing significant climate threats. By 2050, it’s predicted that 4% of properties will have a 10% annual chance of flooding due to rising sea levels, and nearly 17% of properties will be located in areas considered 100-year flood plains, marking an increase of 6% from today. 

This vulnerability was highlighted in 2016 when Hurricane Matthew dumped 14 inches of rain on the city, damaging around 2,000 structures and causing $30 million in damages.

New Orleans, Louisiana


With a population of 369,749, New Orleans stands on the front lines of climate change-induced disasters, notably flooding and extreme heat. The city’s projections for 2050 are alarming, with 99% of homes expected to be in a 100-year flood plain—an increase of 66% from today. 

Since the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005, New Orleans has faced multiple severe storms, including Hurricane Ida in 2021, which knocked out power and temporarily reversed the flow of the Mississippi River.

Jacksonville, Florida


Home to 971,319 residents, the city faces dual threats from flooding and extreme heat. By 2050, the city is projected to endure 57 days of extreme heat annually. Moreover, rising sea levels are expected to impact 1.24% of properties, exacerbating the flood risk. 

The presence of Hurricane Idalia in August brought flooding and demonstrated the tangible impacts of these climate risks, underlining the urgent need for preparedness and adaptation strategies.

Miami, Florida


Miami, Florida, a city of 449,514 people, is increasingly threatened by natural disasters and the consequences of rising sea levels. By 2050, 5% of properties are expected to be impacted by sea level rise, and a staggering 42% of properties may be in 100-year flood plains. 

The regular occurrence of tropical storms and the tragic 2021 condo collapse in Surfside, partially attributed to climate factors, underscore the severe impacts of environmental changes on the city’s infrastructure and safety.

Orlando, Florida


Orlando, Florida, with a population of 316,081, is bracing for increased climate challenges, primarily extreme heat and natural disasters. The city is expected to experience the most extreme heat days in the region, totaling 64 days by 2050. 

Additionally, the high likelihood of hurricanes and tornadoes poses a significant threat to the area. This was evident when Hurricane Ian caused extensive damage in 2022, with residents spending months repairing their homes.

Tampa, Florida


With a population of 398,173, Tampa is significantly at risk from a combination of natural disasters, including flooding, sea level rise, and extreme heat. The city is anticipated to have 56 days of extreme heat each year by 2050, with 24% of properties projected to be in 100-year flood plains. 

The reality of these projections was highlighted in October when six tornadoes caused considerable damage in the Tampa Bay area, signaling the increasing frequency and intensity of such events.

Kate Smith, a self-proclaimed word nerd who relishes the power of language to inform, entertain, and inspire. Kate's passion for sharing knowledge and sparking meaningful conversations fuels her every word.