Sea level rise is a serious matter for Buenos Aires. Vulnerable communities’ socioeconomic status is tied to the floods. By 2025 population growth in the coastal areas of Buenos Aires is expected to reach up to half a million people, all of whom could face relocation if no preventive action is taken.
Earth.Org has mapped the extreme flooding Buenos Aires could experience by 2100.
Argentina’s capital city, Buenos Aires – as it is named, prized themselves on the “good air” or “good winds” that aid sailors around the port. Yet, as climate change continues to become an issue, hard blowing Sudestadas (the southeastern wind) might prompt stronger hits on the coasts.
Urbanization in Buenos Aires has taken a toll more than it has created a futuristic outlook. The region that is located on the southeastern coast of South America used to be crossed by various streams. Due to recurring, damaging floods, efforts were made in 1919 to dam most of those streams, minimizing the chance of flooding. Since then, large urbanization projects have reclaimed wide parcels of wetlands and heavily reduced groundwater absorption, leading to heavier floods downstream. These mainly affect low-income communities with poor drainage systems.
Recognizing the many citizens at risk from this poor urban planning, Buenos Aires laid out a plan in 2005 to create large reservoirs surrounding flood-prone riverbeds and prevent rapid overflow. Funding from the World Bank was received in 2016 and the project aims for completion by 2022.
Unfortunately, these measures are geared toward the current level of flooding, but this is set to increase massively by the end of the century. The government is well aware, but have not drafted a long-term plan as of yet. Earth.Org has modelled sea level rise by 2100 as a reminder to act before it is too late.
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
- Coastal Flood Level
- Pollution Scenario
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.
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.
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).
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This article was written by Eva Angela Seputra and Owen Mulhern.
Kulp, Scott A., and Benjamin H. Strauss. “New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding.” Nature communications 10.1 (2019): 1-12.
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Kulp, S. A. & Strauss, B. H. (2019). New Elevation Data Triple Estimates of Global Vulnerability to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding. Nature Communications, 10(1), 4844. Retrieved June 21, 2020, from http://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-019-12808-z
Muis, S., Verlaan, M., Winsemius, H. C., Aerts, J. C. J. H. & Ward, P. J. (2016). A Global Reanalysis of Storm Surges and Extreme Sea Levels. Nature Communications, 7.