Although not frequent, Melbourne sometimes experiences strong storms that can cause flash floods. Recent sea level rise projections of 1 to 2 meters threaten large portions of the city with higher flood risks.

Earth.Org has mapped what such flooding could look like by 2100.

Melbourne is the second most populated city in Australia and Oceania with 5 million inhabitants. Home to many landmarks, it is a renowned cultural center and often hosts international events. Consistently voted most liveable city in the 2010s, quality of life in Melbourne could be seriously dampened by sea level rise. 

A recent paper published in Nature estimates that, under high emissions scenarios, global sea levels could rise by an average of 1 to 2 meters by 2100. This would flood several low-lying suburbs in Melbourne without extreme weather events, possibly forcing the relocation of their population. A serious flood on top of this could cause damage to some of the more critical infrastructure of the city, including its record-holding tram network

The revised models will hopefully stir a relatively climate change-skeptical government into action. Research bodies for climate adaptation have received funding cuts from the federal government, which hopefully will be reversed be it is too late. Earth.Org has modelled what sea level rise could look like by 2100 to illustrate the need for protective measures.

sea level rise by 2100 melbourne

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

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