Weathering the Storm: 10 U.S. Cities Prepared for Extreme Climate

By Sophia Maddox | January 24, 2024

San Francisco, California

In a world where climate change is an ever-pressing concern, the question of where to weather the impending storm becomes increasingly crucial. Recently, Policygenius, armed with data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, embarked on a comprehensive analysis of the top 50 largest urban areas in the United States. Their mission? To assess these cities across various climate change indicators, offering us a glimpse into which urban havens are poised to thrive as temperatures soar and sea levels surge in the coming decades, and conversely, which may face more challenging times.

As we delve into this riveting exploration of climate resilience, we'll uncover cities that emerge as unlikely sanctuaries, where soaring temperatures are held at bay, flooding remains a manageable concern, and the air is fresher than one might expect. But even in these climate-ready cities, the specter of climate change looms, reminding us that no corner of the globe is truly impervious to its effects. So, join us on this journey as we navigate the climate landscapes of America's urban centers, discovering which cities stand as beacons of readiness.

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In the realm of climate resilience, San Francisco, California, emerges as a true outlier. Unlike the common perception of California, San Francisco defies expectations and stands as a beacon of readiness in the face of climate change.

Heat, a significant concern in many cities, isn't a major issue for San Francisco, with just three days of extreme heat predicted annually by 2050 and less than a full day of high heat and humidity. Sea-level rise is expected to have minimal impact on residential areas, despite the city's bayfront location, with a low percentage of properties in 100-year flood plains remaining unchanged. San Francisco enjoys immunity from several climate-related disasters, witnessing few hurricanes, tornadoes, and wildfires, particularly when compared to neighboring regions. Furthermore, despite the nearby wildfires affecting air quality, San Francisco boasts better air quality than the average among the cities on our list, with 86% of days in 2021 registering as "good." San Francisco not only excels in climate resilience but also shines in social factors, displaying a strong community resilience and vulnerability, positioning itself as the number one city for escaping the worst effects of climate change.

Denver, Colorado

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Nestled amidst the breathtaking Rocky Mountains, Denver, Colorado, offers more than just mile-high views—it's also a city gearing up to face climate change head-on. While Denver residents can expect an average of 33 days of extreme heat by 2050, the city's lack of humidity is projected to remain unchanged. Despite a slight risk of flooding, Denver's overall increase in flood-prone properties is relatively low at just 0.1%.

However, this Rocky Mountain gem faces its own climate-related challenges, particularly in the realm of wildfires, where it scores similarly to Portland and Seattle. Unlike these cities, Denver falls below average for air quality, with just 43% of days measuring as "good" in 2021. Nevertheless, Denver is determined to adapt to the changing climate, with initiatives aimed at bolstering community resilience, ensuring that this city of high altitudes stands strong amidst the environmental shifts on the horizon.