Lagos is located on the coast and comprises numerous islands. Owing to the poor drainage system and excessive groundwater extraction, the incoming challenges of sea level rise have been magnified.

Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding would look like in Lagos by the end of the century.

As one of the coastal megacities in Africa, Lagos serves as an important port for commercial activities. Built around the Lagos Lagoon, it opens on the Atlantic Ocean and comprises of a piece of the mainland and an ensemble of low-lying islands.  The geography of the city makes it susceptible to coastal flooding and saltwater intrusion, especially considering that most of its upscale neighborhoods and business centers are built on the islands. 

Moreover, its poorly designed and maintained drainage system contributes as an aggravating factor to the frequent inundations. Officials do not seem interested in flood control, be it the constructions of dikes, embankment, or seawalls. This is despite studies showing that a sea level rise of 1 to 3 meters would have “a catastrophic effect on human activities” in regions including Lagos.

In 2007, the Nigerian authorities initiated a reclamation project – the construction of a new island,  Eko Atlantic, supposed to reverse coastal erosion and curb land depletion. It borders Lagos directly, covering 10 km², housing up to 250,000 residents, and features many high-end commerces and residences. It has been a target of heavy criticism from locals who denounced the lower-income families that were forced out and claim it is eroding the coastline of the surrounding area, actually increasing flood likelihood. 

Regardless of the controversy, this public-private partnership-project is insufficient to protect Lagos against the expected amplitude of sea level rise by the end of the century. 

Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding could be like in Lagos by then as a call for action.

sea level rise by 2100 lagos

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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