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See how climate change is threatening iconic US landmarks

Al Roker examines how rising sea levels are threatening the Statue of Liberty, Cape Canaveral and historic Jamestown, Virginia.
/ Source: TODAY

Rising sea levels due to climate change mean that some of America's most iconic landmarks are being threatened.

The Washington Monument being surrounded by water. The Statue of Liberty being slowly submerged. Historic Jamestown, Virginia, being overtaken by the sea. The space shuttle launch pads in Florida being swamped by the tide.

These are all scenarios that experts suggest are possible in interviews with TODAY co-host and meteorologist Al Roker in Tuesday's installment of the "Climate in Crisis" series from NBC News.

After traveling to Greenland to get a firsthand look at the melting and splitting glaciers that can have a worldwide effect on sea levels, Al took a look at what could happen to some of the country's most cherished landmarks as a result of rising ocean waters.

Oceans are rising about an inch every eight years, which has already created more coastal flooding and storms with bigger impacts, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration oceanographer William Sweet told Al.

"It's starting to add up," Sweet said on TODAY. "One foot of sea level rise by 2050, we're really talking about big problems at that point."

The effects of rising seas have been felt up and down the East Coast from Boston and New York City to Miami and Norfolk, Virginia, the last of which is home to a critical naval station.

A Department of Defense report issued in January suggested that more than half of U.S. military installations are vulnerable to sea level rise.

"The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to (Department of Defense) missions," the Department of Defense said in a statement to TODAY.

Climate researchers predict a future where large swaths of major cities like New York and Washington, D.C., could be underwater. Al also traveled to Cape Canaveral, Florida, where the tide is getting closer to the active launch pads at the Kennedy Space Center.

Al climate change tease
A computer-generated image shows what Washington, D.C. could look like as a result of rising sea levels. Climate Central

"A lot of our landmarks like the Statue of Liberty or historic Jamestown are located in critical areas of our country," Sweet said.

"Jamestown, as an island, is a low-lying property and that's part of the reason the colonists chose to settle here," Dave Given, director of archaeology for Jamestown Rediscovery, said on TODAY. "But for us today, the peninsula where this Island is, is sinking and affecting those sacred resources that are the beginnings of our nation."

Research suggests the shoreline has been destabilized in many areas on the East Coast.

"As the ocean creeps up, the waves start attacking the shoreline," Sweet said. "The erosion becomes more noticeable and the beaches are disappearing."

Some areas on the East Coast have looked into building sea walls. In Nantucket, an island off Cape Cod, Massachusetts, one wealthy couple paid $1.6 million to have their mansion picked up and moved away from the coast line due to an eroding bluff next to the house, according to The Wall Street Journal.

"We have to hope that we're never too late," Radley Horton of the Earth Institute at Columbia University said on TODAY. "We have to engage fully to reduce emissions and to prepare for those climate changes that we're locked into."