Scientist Andrew David Thaler decided to write a novel set in the future, in a "post-sea-level-rise world." To make Fleet as scientifically realistic as he could, he needed to model the actual flooding that could result from climate change. And thus, a meme that reached 10 million people was born.

Thaler, who writes at Southern Fried Science, ended up creating the hashtag #DrownYourTown, allowing people to send him the amount of sea-level rise they wanted him to model for their home town.


Above is Houston with 50 meters of sea-level rise. Here's Oakland with just 25 meters:

Over at Southern Fried Science, Thaler talks about the need to keep the environmental science plausible in Fleet:

I tried to keep the heavy-handed environmental message to a minimum, within the book itself, though it's impossible to completely ignore something critical to the world-building of Fleet. By setting it far in the future (I considered not providing dates, but rather having Snapper sight Gamma Cephei during the celestial navigation scene but nixed that since 1000 years is a bit to far flung into the future for the Fleet to survive) it allowed me to gloss over the details, since by now they've been relegated to oral histories. The consequences of sea level rise are most pronounced where certain regions are named — the Hatteras Front is Cape Hatteras, the Piedmont Expanse is North Carolina up almost to Richmond, the Reach, for those who don't geek out over oceanography, is the Gulf Stream....

More visibly, #DrownYourTown, which has now reached over 10 million people from more than 130 countries and provinces (wait, was that a ping from Pyongyang?!) emerged from a series of models I made to help visualize the world of Fleet. Unfortunately, I had to decouple #DrownYourTown from Fleet in order to make it an effective outreach tool (my goal was to get people thinking about sea level rise, not sell my book). #DrownYourTown has migrated to its own website, where you can submit your own images and browse other cities.

So not only does making the science accurate make your science fiction better — it can also lead to models that provide excellent teaching tools to help people understand science in the context of real life. [Southern Fried Science]