Antwerp is another city that must prepare for the impact of sea level rise. Sitting on the Scheldt river estuary, it already features flood protection against North Sea tidal surges, but these won’t be sufficient to contain severe floods by the end of the century. 

Earth.Org has mapped what one of these floods could look like.

Built on the Seascheldt estuary, Antwerp is surrounded by a vast expanse of flatlands that regularly flood at high tide creating mudflats and salt marshes. 

When the city experienced disastrous floods in 1953 and 1976 it became clear that its inhabitants needed to build protection against storm surges. They dug a 512 km long dike as part of a strategy dubbed the Sigma plan, with deviation for the water to enter controlled flooding areas. 

Another component of this plan is a concrete wall around the city, 5.5 km long, and 1.35 meters high. Well aware of the rising sea levels, this barrier will be elevated by another 90 centimeters, but it also affects quality of life when the view of the sea is cut off. Mobile water barriers are also being considered, but the cost of construction and operation is higher. It may well be worth the cost if we do not curb global emissions soon.

Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding could look like in Antwerp by 2100 to raise awareness of the risk. 

sea level rise by 2100 antwerp

Sea level rise projections by 2100 for two scenarios with the amount of rise in meters indicated (mild = 3m; extreme = 6m). Percentage and total 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.

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