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Activity 2 (Explore): Where Does Sunny Day

Flooding Happen?

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Activity Overview

Activity Summary

In this activity, students investigate the phenomenon of sunny day floods by looking at elevation and flooding maps, and then by using NOAA’s online Sea Level Rise viewer. Through their research, students learn where sunny day flooding occurs, and how different sea level rise scenarios affect different communities, including their own.

Activity Objectives & Materials

Approximate Time: 60 minutes


  • Students will use maps to determine the location of sunny day floods in order to investigate the cause of the phenomenon.

  • Students will understand how sea level rise affects coastal communities



  • Computer & projector

  • Student computers (highly recommended)



  • Sunny Day Floods

Standards Connection

DCI: ESS 3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems

SEP: Analyzing data

CCC: Cause & Effect, Patterns



Show students the map below, and tell them that this map shows the elevation (height) of land above sea level. The height is shown on the scale on the right. Have them use the scale to see about how high Annapolis, MD is above sea level (they can provide a range). If they are on the map, have them find how high the school is above sea level. Note: You can also go to this map at and move it around, zoom in, or click to see the elevation in a particular location. Use the dropdown menu at the top to select English (United States) for measurements in feet.

Annapolis elevations.png

Answer: Annapolis ranges from about 1’ to 64’ above sea level in different places.


1. Frame the Activity

Look at the big guiding questions that students came up with in Activity 1. Find a question that relates to the location of the flooding, as well as an idea for investigation (if there is one). Tell students that today they are going to investigate where sunny day flooding occurs to help answer their question. If possible, make a connection to their idea for investigation as well.

Step 1

2. Where Does Sunny Day Flooding Happen?

Show students the map below which shows areas of the region (in red) that currently experience sunny day flooding.

Coastal flooding map.png

Ask students what they notice about what areas are red (they are all along the coast or along rivers). Ask students what would cause the areas along the coast to flood more often. Have them turn to a partner to discuss, and then hear answers. Use questions if necessary to help students come to the conclusion that if the sea level of the ocean is rising, then areas that are along the ocean or near it will experience more flooding.

Map sources: The maps for this part of the activity come from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Go to to access them.

3. Annapolis Under Water

Ask students where they think the pictures came from that they saw during Activity 1. They will likely say that they came from somewhere in the red area. Two of the pictures came from Annapolis, MD:

Nuisance flood Annapolis.jpg
Annapolis flooding.jpg

And one from Cambridge, MD on the Eastern Shore:

Nuisance flood truck.jpg

Tell students that they are going to look more closely at what happens when the sea level rises in places like Annapolis and Cambridge using a computer simulation.

Step 4

4. Sea Level Rise Viewer

Pass out the Sunny Day Floods sheet to students. If they are using student computers for the activity, pass out the computers now and have students go to If student computers are not available, it is best to lead them through the activity together as a whole group using a computer connected to a projector.

Tech Tip: If student computers are not available for the Sea Level Rise Viewer part of the activity, then it is best for the class to do the activity together using a computer connected to a projector, so they can all see as the maps change.

Why Annapolis?: The student handout is based around Annapolis, MD because it experiences sunny day floods on an increasingly regular basis. You can also have students look at other cities nearby. There are high tide flood scenarios and local scenarios for Washington DC, Baltimore, Richmond (local scenario only), and other cities nearby.

Even if students are using computers, you should walk them through the first few steps of the directions to make sure they are able to use the NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer.


While students are working on the activity, circulate and support as necessary. Sometimes finding the right button to click on the map may be difficult. Zooming out can often help with this, although sometimes you may need to refresh the page and go back to the location.


When students are done with the viewer (up to the summary portion), collect student computers and lead the discussion below before having students complete the summary.

5. Sensemaking Discussion

Ask students what they learned from using the sea level rise viewer. Use questions to help drive the conversation if these key points don’t come up naturally:

  • Sea level rise affects low elevation coastal communities and those near rivers the most

  • Sunny day floods are caused by sea level rise

  • The number of sunny day floods will continue to rise if the sea level continues to rise

  • Vulnerable communities may end up completely underwater

  • People who live in vulnerable communities will have difficulty going about their lives and work if sea level continues to rise. They may have to move somewhere else.


Close the discussion by asking students if they know what is causing the sea level to rise (don’t give them any answers, this is a teaser for the next activity).

Additional data: The National Environmental Modeling and Analysis Center has graphs and other data including predicted number of flood days in the DC/ Baltimore Region. Use the link below and click on one of the blue dots on the map to access their flood days graphs for that location:

6. Formative Assessment

Have students complete the summary section of their Sunny Day Floods sheet.

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