The impact of climate change has constantly reshaped the coastlines of Abu Dhabi. As the sea level continues to rise, by 2100, the coastlines are estimated to retreat by 2.26 to 3.81 kilometres.

Earth.Org has mapped the effect of severe flooding on Abu Dhabi by 2100.

Abu Dhabi is the United Arab Emirates’ second-most populous city after Dubai, and its center for politics and industry. Most of Abu Dhabi’s population and commercial and cultural activity is concentrated on its coastline, putting the bulk of its assets at risk from sea level rise. 

When looking at our climate by the end of the century, there is uncertainty. Temperatures could increase by 1.4 to 5.8°C and sea levels could rise by 0.5 to 2 m. However, the most recent IPCC assessment has shown that the more we learn, the worse the situation appears. It would be wise for governments to prepare for the more extreme scenarios, and begin to seriously curb emissions.

In the case of Abu Dhabi, a sea level rise risk assessment study was conducted in 2012, where the authors estimated the proportion of urban area lost to the ocean for different scenarios. A half-meter rise would submerge 1.46% of the city, quickly jumping up to 9.45% and 15.89% for a 1.5 and 2 m rise respectively. The costs have not been precisely estimated, but considering Abu Dhabi’s economic importance (accounting for two-thirds of the UAE’s  US $400 billion economy), the damage could be in the billions of US dollars. 

The impacts of rising waters could also have grave effects on the neighboring ecosystems, such as the precious mangrove forests. These coastal trees help soften the impacts of storms and floods, prevent erosion thanks to their roots, and trap large amounts of carbon. Unfortunately, they could be submerged, moving their ideal water depth further inland at a speed the ecosystem could not keep up with. 

Despite an awareness of the mangrove’s value and the danger climate change poses, the United Arab Emirates remains one of the highest CO2 emitting countries per capita in the world. The facts are in front of them, and hoping for a mild future rather than assuming a worst-case scenario is now illogical. 

Earth.Org has mapped severe flooding in Abu Dhabi by 2100 as a call to action. 

sea level rise by 2100 abu dhabi

Sea level rise projections by 2100 for two scenarios with the amount of rise in meters indicated (mild = 1m; extreme = 3m). Population displacement indicated bottom right.


Global mean sea level is projected to rise by 2m at the end of this century. However, in order to determine local sea level rise (SLR), one has to take into account local coastal flood levels which could be 2.8m above Mean Higher-High Water (MHHW) at extreme forecasts. These local levels bring variability to the projected SLR from 1m to 6.5m (eg. Rio vs Kolkata).

The SLR scenarios used in this study are based on the forecasts from Climate Central – Coastal Risk Screening Tool  with the following parameters:

Sea level Projection Source

From two highly cited journals by Kopp et al., estimating SLR mainly due to ocean thermal expansion and ice melt. The mid-range scenario projected 0.5-1.2m of SLR based on different representative concentration pathways (RCP) defined by the IPCC. While the pessimistic scenario added more mechanisms of ice-sheet melting, estimating SLR at 1m-2.5m in 2100, with a projection of 10m SLR at 2300.

Coastal Flooding

More frequent coastal flooding is a direct impact of sea-level rise. Based on the Global tides and surge reanalysis by Muis et al., (2016), it is estimated that the extreme coastal water level could be from 0.2 – 2.8m over the mean level. While in extreme cases like China and the Netherlands it could experience 5-10m of extreme sea levels. Here, the coastal local flood level is added on top of the projected SLR.

Pollution Scenario

Allows choosing the RCP, the greenhouse gas concentration trajectory defined by the IPCC.  The mild level is based on RCP4.5, of 2°C temperature rise; while the Extreme level is based on RCP 8.5, of 4°C temperature rise.


Applies to the baseline SLR, defined in the “Sea level projection” section, upon which we add flooding. “Mild” refers to the mid-range scenario of 0.5-1.2m, and “extreme” to the pessimistic scenario of 1-2.5m. We used the high-end value of each scenario (mild = 1m; extreme = 2.5m).

Mapping and methodology by Braundt Lau. Article written by Jennie Wong and Owen Mulhern.

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