Like many other South-East Asian countries, people in Myanmar must endure flash floods during the monsoon season. These occur mostly when heavy rains coincide with high tides, which means sea level rise will make these more frequent. Sadly boasting the most extreme weather-related fatalities since 1998, Myanmar needs to prepare for harder times ahead.
Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding in 2100 could look like in the capital city Rangoon as a call to action.
The Global Climate Risk Index declared Myanmar one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. The central region whose rivers are already drying up will become arider, while extreme precipitation events are expected to become more violent. It already suffers from deadly tropical cyclones like the passage of Nargis in 2008, leaving over 100,000 deaths behind and affecting millions more.
The Myanmar Climate Change Alliance insists upon the fact that weather extremes, such as storms or exceptional heat, will become much more frequent by as early as 2040. This will have tangible impacts on health, ecosystems, infrastructure damage, and importantly, agricultural yields.
During summer monsoons, heavy rainfall coincidence with high tides leads to flash flooding. These create powerful currents that can drown people, damage buildings and cause landslides. More dangerous yet is the promotion of mosquito-borne disease, as these insects benefit from wet conditions and stagnant water pools where they reproduce. Other illnesses like cholera reach drinking water reservoirs during floods, leading to high morbidity.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is helping Myanmar’s government design a nature-based adaptation plan to tackle climate change. Currently focused on raising awareness and mainstreaming climate change into urban planning and education, the plan will enter a second more active phase in the second half of 2020. Earth.Org has mapped the flooding Rangoon could experience by 2100 as a call to swift action.
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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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.