Flooding & Sea Level Rise in the SC Lowcountry

Mean High Water (MHW) is a project documenting the impacts of sea level rise & flooding in and beyond the South Carolina Lowcountry. The title is in reference to the MHW tidal datum defined and maintained by the NOAA Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Service.

The tides of Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean are increasingly encroaching into the natural and built environment of Charleston and the Lowcountry. The rate of increase in the number of coastal flood events is alarming. Approximately 45% of all coastal floods observed in Charleston Harbor from 1953 through 2020 have occurred since 2010. An average of 18.8 coastal floods occurred per year in the 1990s. In the 2010s, the annual average was 42.4 coastal floods2, an increase of over 200%.

MHW was started in 2020 by photographer and engineer Jared Bramblett. It is intended to be an evolving and collaborative documentation of the impacts of flooding. If you are interested in participating and submitting to the project, please reach out. All content on this site is copyrighted. If you are interested in using any content, please submit a request.

Jared Bramblett

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All thoughts and opinions presented on this site are solely those of the author and are not necessarily those of any other organizations.

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Charleston Harbor, Cooper River Entrance1

Coastal Floods (>7-ft MLLW)2
89 (2019)
70 (2022)
68 (2020)
58 (2015)
55 (2016)

Major Coastal Floods (>8-ft MLLW)2
7 (2020)
6 (2015)
4 (2021)
4 (2019)
3 (2022, 2018)

Peak Tide Crests (MLLW)3
09/22/1989 - 12.52-ft (Hugo)
08/11/1940 - 10.23-ft (Unnamed)
09/11/2017 - 9.92-ft (Irma)
10/08/2016 - 9.29 (Matthew)
01/01/1987 - 8.81-ft 

29 of the 43 (67.4%) major flood tides on record have occurred since 2015.3

Statistics current as of 01/01/2023


1Tidal Benchmark Station - Charleston, Cooper River Entrance, SC - Station ID: 8665530

2NWS Coastal Flood Event Database

3Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, Charleston, SC 

Imagining Our Future with Water at TEDxCharleston

May 30, 2022
On March 23, I presented ‘Imagining Our Future with Water’ on the TEDxCharleston Stage. It was an honor to have shared the stage with so many smart, talented speakers, and I am extremely grateful for my speaking coaches and the entire TEDxCharleston team of volunteers that helped make the event a success. I’m proud of the talk and hope that it inspires meaningful action across Charleston and other low-lying coastal communities. I also want to give special recognition to my good friend, talented author, and excellent speaking coach Gervais Hagerty for helping me with the throughput of my talk. Early in the development of the talk I got bogged down in a negative spiral. Gervais listened to my disorganized thoughts, picked up on a few common themes, and helped me realize that I needed to structure the talk around my background as an engineer and my observations documenting flooding through this Mean High Water Project. I’m really not sure where this talk would have ended if it weren’t for Gervais’ help.

There is no easy fix for the water issues of today, much less those of the future when you consider sea level rise and changing weather patterns. There are three steps, outlined in my talk, that I believe can allow us to adapt our cities to better live with the water. First, look to the past and respect our natural ecosystems and landscapes - restore and/or mimic creeks and major water pathways that were destroyed as our cities grew. Make water an asset in these areas instead of a liability. Second, ensure that the infrastructure we invest in to mitigate the impacts of flooding also have multiple benefits that strengthen our communities and our economies. Lastly, modify landscapes and hardscapes at our homes and in our neighborhoods to store and infiltrate water and prevent it from running off into our streets and overwhelming our drainage systems. I will take many sacrifices, but we can make our cities for resilient to flooding through smart adaptation practices. 

© 2022