Sea level rise is 2 to 3 times faster around Nauru than the global average, putting its freshwater supplies and crops at risk of saltwater contamination.  Already reliant on economical aid, its basic resource needs may have to acquired externally for life to be sustained on the island. 

Earth.Org take a closer look. 

Nauru, once a wealthy nation, is now threatened by climate change. The total land area is only 21 km2 with just over 10,000 residents. Large boats cannot access the island due to a barrier of coral around its shores. The only fertile areas are on its narrow coastal belt where coconut palms grow, or around the Buada lagoon that can support bananas and pineapples. Moreover, freshwater resources are very limited, mostly coming from the lagoon, rooftop storage tanks, and three desalination plants. 

Inland, 80% of the area has been ravaged as a result of heavy phosphate mining. Once the phosphate resources were depleted, Nauru briefly became a tax haven and illegal money laundering center, after which it accepted aid from the Australian Government in exchange for hosting an immigration detention facility. 

Water is rising rapidly around Nauru, and a vulnerability assessment stated that the projected sea level rise could soon contaminate the groundwater supply by saltwater intrusion. Buada Lagoon, the only surface freshwater resource, is located in the low-lying Southwest-central portion of the island only 5 metres above sea-level, exposed to strong storm surges. Moreover, the majority of the infrastructure and socio-economic activities in Nauru are located near or on the coast, with homes, ports and hospitals vulnerable to flood damage. 

As a call for awareness, we’ve modelled floods on Nauru by 2100, along with temporary population displacement.

sea level rise by 2100 nauru

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).

Mapping and methodology by Braundt Lau. Article written by Wing Ki Leung and Owen Mulhern.

You might also like: Sea Level Rise by 2100 – Miami