Sea Level Rise Explorer
From Global Warming Art
The map shown above allows you to explore the regions of the Earth that are most vulnerable to sea level rise.
As with other Google Maps, you can click-and-drag the window to scroll or double click to zoom.
Potential for Sea Level Rise
|Sources of potential sea level rise|
|Thermal expansion of the oceans||0.2-0.4 m per degree C|
|Mountain glaciers and ice caps||0.15-0.37 m|
|Greenland Ice Sheet||7.3 m|
|West Antarctica Ice Sheet||5 m|
|East Antarctic Ice Sheet||52 m|
As global warming progresses, sea level is expected to rise primarily due to the melting of continental ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. However, the ultimate amount of flooding is highly uncertain. A full deglaciation of both poles would raise sea level as much as ~65 meters (210 feet), though it is very likely that the ultimate sea level rise will be only a fraction of this possible total.
During the twentieth century, sea level rose 20 cm. It is predicted that sea level rise will accelerate during the twenty-first century, but many model predictions still foresee a sea level rise of less than 1 additional meter by 2100. The greatest uncertainty in these predictions is the role of ice streams and iceberg calving from the major ice sheets. Current models are unable to predict the degree by which ice streams may accelerate in response to warming. By one estimate, the glacial outflow from Greenland increased 200% from 1996 to 2005. This increase in Greenland's outflow, if sustained, would add only ~3.5 cm to sea level by 2100. However, since this large increase was apparently triggered by relatively mild warming, the IPCC is unable to rule out dramatic further increases in outflow. A further ten-fold increase in glacial outflow and corresponding increases in the glacial outflow of Antarctica could effectively double the total mass loss through 2100. Even so, the likely scenarios for twenty-first century sea level rise due to unrestrained global warming remain less than 2 m.
|Sea Level Rise||Risk for Sea Level Rise|
|By the year 2100||By the year 3000||Beyond the year 3000|
|0-1 m||High||Virtually Certain||Virtually Certain|
|1-2 m||Low to Moderate||Virtually Certain||Virtually Certain|
|2-6 m||Very Low||High||High|
|6-12 m||None||Low to Moderate||Moderate|
|12-20 m||None||Low||Low to Moderate|
|20-65 m||None||Very Low||Low|
However, even if global temperatures stabilize in 2100, the full magnitude of sea level rise is expected to take far longer to develop. By one estimate, carbon dioxide stabilization at 1100 ppmv (four times pre-industrial levels) would still only result in a 60% mass loss in Greenland after 1000 years of melting, and an additional 2000 years to melt the remainder. (This estimate does not include the potential impact of ice stream acceleration.) The sheer size of the ice sheets involved essentially guarantee that the melting component of sea level rise will progress slowly.
Regardless of the time scale involved, an analogy to the previous interglacial suggests that a few degrees Celsius of sustained warming can cause enough melting to raise sea level 4-6 m before the ice sheets reach equilibrium. This level of warming is likely to be achieved or even exceeded by 2100 in the absence of intervention to combat climate change, though as above, it would take far longer to realize the full sea level change.
Accuracy of Maps
The sea level data appearing in my maps is based primarily on version 2 of NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), with post-processing by CGIAR to fill-in voids using data from other sources. The underlying data has a horizontal resolution of 90 m at the equator. Over the entire globe, the absolute vertical error is estimated as less than 9 m at 90% confidence, with substantial regions having an error of 5 m or less at 90% confidence. No satellite-based elevation dataset has accuracy better than this. The largest errors are primarily associated with complex, rapidly varying terrain. Since coastal regions tend to flat and the ocean's surface provides a calibration target for the radar system, one can usually expect that near shore elevations will be somewhat more accurate than the average. However, it is reasonable to treat the smallest scale fluctuations at high magnification with a healthy dose of scepticism.
One of the limitations of the SRTM data is that radar beam sees only the uppermost surface in a given area and this may not reflect the ground level. This causes the data set to overestimate elevation in densely forested or urbanized areas. Consequently, cities like  Lastly, there are a number of holes in the SRTM data that CGIAR filled with lower quality data. Some of these fills will contain noticably defects (such as parts around ).appear to have significantly greater average elevation than one would perceive at street level. In addition, the radar system may underestimate the elevation of deserts due to poor radar reflection from dry sand.
The SRTM data are limited to a region of 60 S to 60 N latitude. Outside this region, sea level information was extracted from the Global Land One-km Base Elevation (GLOBE) Project which has a horizontal resolution of ~1 km at the equator and is often characterized by vertical errors of +/- 30 m. Obviously this resolution is quite crude and so data at high latitudes should be taken as a rough estimate of actual elevation. In addition, the stretching of the Mercator Projection near the poles increases the apparent distortion.
Lastly, since these maps don't include any information regarding tides, storm surges, or other coastal effects, they provide only a partial picture of how vulnerable a given terrain may be to sea level rise.
Though these data are amongst the best available for the purpose of estimating sea level rise effects, it should also be clear that their small scale accuracy is limited. Hence, one should view these maps as rough estimations of how sea level rise may affect coastal areas and not rely on them too heavily.
- Embedding Sea Level Images - Instructions for displaying these sea level maps on your own website.
- Selected Flooding Maps - Static images made from an older version of these data.
- Flood Maps - Alternative Google sea level rise maps produced by Alex Tingle
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- ^ a b c [ ] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007a). Climate Change 2007 - The Physical Science Basis: Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978 0521 88009-1.
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- ^ a b [abstract] Lythe, Matthew B., David G. Vaughan, and the BEDMAP Consortium (2001). "BEDMAP: A new ice thickness and subglacial topographic model of Antarctica". Journal of Geophysical Research 106 (B6): 11335–11351.
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- ^ These descriptions reflect the qualitative opinions of the author based on a review of the literature.
- ^ [abstract] [ ] J. K. Ridley, P. Huybrechts, J. M. Gregory, J. A. Lowe (2005). "Elimination of the Greenland Ice Sheet in a High CO2 Climate". Journal of Climate 18 (17): 3409–3427.
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- ^ [abstract] [ ] [ ] Farr, Tom G. and many others (2007). "The Shuttle Radar Topography Mission". Reviews of Geophysics 45: RG2004.
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