Before-and-after photos reveal how landmarks have been ravaged by fires, floods, and melting ice over the last decade

The 2018 Howe Ridge Fire left burned trees in Glacier National Park, Montana. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Many famous landmarks and iconic natural wonders have been flooded, scorched, or eroded by extreme weather in the last decade.
  • In the US, the Statue of Liberty and Glacier National Park have both been affected by climate-related disasters.
  • In some cases, the damage is irreversible.
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The effects of climate change have become increasingly visible and pronounced in the last decade. Wildfire season is getting longer as rising temperatures dry out soil and vegetation. The oceans are also heating up, which leads to more intense hurricanes and sea-level rise.

In the future, few places will be immune to these climate threats. Certain areas have already witnessed considerable damage.

In the last 10 years, several famous landmarks have been flooded, scorched, and eroded by climate-related disasters. Take a look at how they fared before and after.

The Statue of Liberty rests on a 154-foot-tall pedestal, but it’s not entirely safe from flooding.


The statue sits in the middle of the New York Harbour on a land mass called Liberty Island.

Hurricane Sandy caused significant damage to Liberty Island’s pier, railings, and infrastructure.

A brick walkway damaged in Superstorm Sandy on Liberty Island in New York. Richard Drew/AP Images

Before Hurricane Sandy struck in 2012, the statue had only sustained damage from one other event: a munitions explosion during World War I.

Lady Liberty managed to avoid damage from the storm due to her height, but the hurricane flooded around 75% of Liberty Island. By 2100, the average high tide could be 2 feet higher than the flood level caused by Hurricane Sandy, routinely placing the island underwater.

Skara Brae, a stone settlement in Scotland, is older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian Pyramids. It was rediscovered thanks to a storm, but another storm could destroy the site.


Skara Brae hosted its first inhabitants more than 5,000 years ago. It sits on the Orkney Islands, just a few miles from the coast of Scotland.

Researchers believe the settlement was abandoned after the local climate grew colder and wetter around 2500 BC. The site was discovered by archaeologists in 1850, when a storm peeled away a sand dune that had covered it for millennia.

Skara Brae is exposed to heavy rains and frequent storms. The land is also eroding due to sea-level rise.


Sea levels near the Orkney Islands rose about 3 millimetres per year from 1992 to 2013. The area also witnesses frequent and intense storms. From 1961 and 2004, the number of days with heavy rains rose by about 8%.

After evaluating these conditions, a coalition of scientists recently determined that climate change poses a “physical threat” to the landmark. They also warned that part of Skara Brae could be destroyed by a single climate-related disaster.

A civil rights memorial in Annapolis, Maryland, has only been around for two decades, but it has already been flooded multiple times.

The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial in Annapolis, Maryland. Linda Davidson/The Washington Post/Getty Images

The memorial opened in 1999. It depicts author Alex Haley reading his novel, “Roots,” to three children. The novel’s main character, Kunta Kinte, is based on one of Haley’s ancestors who was enslaved and brought to America.

Like Liberty Island, the memorial was inundated by floodwater from Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

The Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley Memorial on October 30, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy. Blake Sell/AP Photo

Flooding from the hurricane made the statues appear as if they were floating in water. A local newspaper, the Capital Gazette, called the memorial “the unofficial yardstick for flooding” in Annapolis Harbour.

St. Mark’s Square in Venice has seen plenty of flooding over the last century, but the floods have become more frequent.


Since the site rests just above sea level, it’s especially vulnerable to flooding during the “acqua alta” – a period of exceptionally high tides in the Adriatic Sea that lasts from autumn to spring.

Venice now floods more than 60 times per year and is on track to be underwater by 2100.

People walk through floodwater along a pathway next to St. Mark’s Square during a period of seasonal high water on February 2, 2015. Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

In 2018, a series of devastating storms toppled trees and flooded tourist attractions like St. Mark’s Square. By the end of the storm, at least 11 people were dead and three-quarters of Venice city was submerged.

During the last Ice Age, giant glaciers carved out mountains in Glacier National Park in Montana. But now only a small fraction of the park’s glaciers remain.

A man fishes in Glacier National Park, Montana. Camerique/ClassicStock/Getty Images

Around 150 glaciers existed in Glacier National Park in 1870. Only 26 are still there.

Even the glaciers that do remain in the park have shrunk.

The Grinnell Glacier in 2009 (left) versus 2015 (right). Lisa McKeon/United States Geological Survey

The park’s Grinnell Glacier shrunk by 72% from 1850 to 2015. About 8% of this decline in mass occurred from 2005 to 2015.

Glacier National Park has also been hit by wildfires as fire season grows longer in the western US. In 2018, the Howe Ridge Fire tore through the park’s forest.

Burned trees killed by the 2018 Howe Ridge Fire stand against the evening sky in Glacier National Park. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A thunderstorm on August 11, 2018 ignited the blaze, which burned through 14,5000 acres.

The Montana’s 2017 Climate Assessment found that the state’s annual forest fire season is nearly three times longer than it was in the mid-1970s. It now lasts for around 135 days.

Yellowstone was the first national park ever established. But its forests, like those in Glacier National Park, are threatened by wildfires.

Emigrant Peak is seen rising above the Paradise Valley and the Yellowstone River near Emigrant, Montana. Matthew Brown/AP

The average annual temperature around Yellowstone has risen by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1948. Local winters are also about 10 days shorter than they were then. Warmer, drier conditions make the land more vulnerable to wildfires.

The park has seen nine wildfires this year alone.

A 2018 wildfire in a forest at Yellowstone National Park. Avalon/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

In 2016, it saw a total of 22 wildfires.

Iconic glaciers elsewhere in the world are at risk, too. The Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in the Swiss Alps. But that could change in the coming years.

The Aletsch Glacier in 2006. DeAgostini/Getty Images

The glacier stretches about 32 square miles, but it could lose up to 90% of its ice by 2100.

The glacier’s “tongue” has already shrunk by 3,300 feet in the last two decades.

The Aletsch Glacier in 2014. Shutterstock

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich predict that, if local temperatures increase by between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius by 2100, all that will be left is a patch of ice. (The World Meteorological Organisation predicts an average temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius globally by 2100. )

The Great Barrier Reef is known for its colourful medley of coral. But in 2016, around 30% of that coral was killed in a bleaching event.

The Great Barrier Reef consists of more than 2,500 individual reefs, all of which are threatened by rising ocean temperatures.

Coral reefs have microscopic algae living in their tissue, which capture sunlight and turn it into nutrients for the reef. When ocean water gets too warm, algae either leaves the coral tissue or dies inside of it.

Without that algae, coral becomes pale or white (the colour of their exoskeletons) – a process known as “bleaching.” The coral may eventually attract more algae if water temperatures return to normal, but its likelihood of survival drops as algae leaves the nest.

Projections suggest that 60% of all coral reefs are likely to be highly or critically threatened by 2030.

A coral reef that’s bleached on the left side. The Ocean Agency/XL Catlin Seaview Survey/Richard Vevers and Christophe Bailhache

A quarter of all fish species spend a portion of their life cycle in reefs, so coral bleaching can leave them without an important source of food and shelter.

Drought conditions have caused the Dead Sea, which borders Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, to shrink and collapse.


The area is known for its warm, dry climate, which causes water to evaporate quickly, making the Dead Sea one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth. As the Dead Sea, it leaves behind salt deposits that can collapse into sinkholes, forming craters in the ground.

The land around the Dead Sea now has around 5,500 sinkholes near the shoreline — all of which have appeared in the last 40 years.

A sinkhole on the shore of the Dead Sea on March 11, 2018. Ahmad Abdo/AFP/Getty Images

The Dead Sea sits about 1,400 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point on land. The sea’s surface level is dropping at a rate of about 4 feet per year.