Brisbane does not frequently experience flooding, but projected sea level rise of 1 to meters by the end of the century would make inundations a common occurrence at high tide. 

Earth.Org takes a closer look.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, the Queensland Government adopted the forecast that the sea level will rise by 0.8 meters by 2100. This estimate falls under a business as usual scenario, where major emission curbing efforts are not undertaken.

Research conducted by the Labour Environment Action Network reveals that a 0.8-metre rise might flood numerous places in Brisbane. With merely a 0.74-metre sea level rise, the centre of the runway of the Brisbane Airport would only be slightly above the water, while its sides would be flooded by high tides. A 0.74-metre rise would also flood streets and buildings at high tides in Albion, a north-eastern suburb in Brisbane. What is worse is that recent research indicates that the IPCC forecast is likely to be an underestimation than an overestimation. Owing to the acceleration in the ice sheet melt in Greenland and Antarctica, the problem of sea level rise is prone to escalation.

Using the data provided by Climate Central’s latest study, Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding would be like in Brisbane by 2100.

sea level rise by 2100 brisbane

Sea level rise projections by 2100 for two scenarios with the amount of rise in meters indicated (mild = 2m; extreme = 4m). 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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