Insights
22 April 2022

Groundbreaking visualization shows San Francisco’s climate-related flood risk

Dr. Benjamin A. Laken

By Dr. Benjamin A. Laken

Groundbreaking visualization shows San Francisco’s climate-related flood risk

Over the last 50 years extreme weather has killed an average of 115 people and caused more than $200 million in damages every day. Longer, more frequent, and more intense hazard risk is the expression of realized climate change.

It’s now or never. The science is clear, we are fast approaching all reasonable red-lines when it comes to sustainability, the biosphere, and the stability of the Earth system we intimately depend on. Yet for years, organizations and governments have struggled to get an actionable view of their climate risks, and begin mitigation and adaptation efforts. 

Cervest’s groundbreaking asset-scale Climate Intelligence (CI) is changing this. By harnessing advances in computing, scientific modeling, and AI, CI allows anyone to understand multi-hazard, asset-scale climate impacts across various time and future emission scenarios. By doing this, Cervest’s Climate Intelligence products including EarthScan are providing people and organizations with personalized views on the previously intangible externalities of climate change for the first time.

Harnessing Climate Intelligence for data visualizations

Now, Cervest has harnessed Climate Intelligence — asset-level intelligence for managing climate risk — to generate advanced data visualizations. These visualizations will be critical tools to bridging the awareness-action gap by making complex and hard-to-grasp concepts emotionally resonant and real for people.

One of the reasons these data visualizations are so impactful is that they show people that the places they know and love, that they assumed were permanent, fixed entities, are actually part of a fragile and interconnected system that is being transformed by climate change. We believe making this realization come to life for people will be an invaluable tool in the effort to drive awareness and avoid the worst possible futures that would arise from inaction and apathy.

Visualizing San Francisco’s flood risk

This striking visualization below — the first developed by our new data visualization capability leveraging Climate Intelligence — shows risk over a well-known and recognizable part of the San Francisco Bay Area, revealing one of the many consequences of continued inaction.

Based on a business as usual emissions scenario — the scenario which currently best captures our current emissions trend — the image shows a stark and clearly visible change in coastal flooding risk between 2020 and 2100. You can download the full, high-resolution visualization here.


These images have been created using a coastal flooding model developed internally by Cervest and combining it with data from OpenStreetMap, satellite imagery from Mapbox, LandSat, and a digital terrain model provided by NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), processed using open source tools including Python and Blender.

Multiple factors go into understanding flood risk in this coastal region, including the expansion of sea level as the ocean warms and the contributions from melting ice caps and glaciers. These factors mean that inevitable extreme events will become even more severe, causing damage at a scale that we simply have not had to worry about before and reinforcing the need to simultaneously adapt and decarbonize our assets.

This is just one of the multitude of climate hazards that Cervest monitors and will impact our daily lives, changing society as we know it. These escalating hazards will create opportunities and challenges that we must adapt to, mitigate for and price into our everyday decision making. This will only be possible with the insights provided by Climate Intelligence.

Managing climate-related risk with EarthScan

Leveraging the power of Climate Intelligence, our flagship product EarthScan enables users to see and quantify climate risk for the first time on the critical assets they depend on and share this intelligence across networks of connected actors, including enterprises, regulators, watchdogs, insurers and creditors, to enable democratic, distributed decision making around a credible and common source of truth for the first time.

EarthScan, alongside Cervest’s other Climate Intelligence products, will inform a wide array of initial applications, including operational planning, internal reporting and meeting mandatory external disclosure requirements, M&A and location planning, access to credit, and adaptation/weatherization decisions, and those are just the tip of the iceberg. Let’s make every network a climate intelligent one. For a resilient future and many more Earth Days to come.

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