Samoa’s climate is dependent on the South Pacific Convergence Zone and the El Nino-Southern Oscillation. They can bring both floods and droughts that heavily impact Samoan livelihood, and sea level rise threatens to exacerbate these events.
Earth.Org has mapped severe flooding in Samoa by 2100 as a result of sea level rise and coastal flooding.
Consisting of two main islands, Savai’i and Upolu, Samoa is an independent island state that sits about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. It is around 2,800 km2 with a mountainous topology, forcing most of the activity onto the coastline. Tropical cyclones affect the island between November and April, with 52 cyclones recorded between 1969 and 2010. These can be devastating to homes and infrastructure, and the accompanying floods cause landslides and put cities into gridlock.
A recent study estimated that sea level rise around Samoa is occurring ~5 times faster than the global average due to earthquake-related subsidence. There have already been waves of relocation inland as coastlines get eroded by cyclones and subsequent waves surges, and the entire island will have to adapt in the face of rising sea levels.
As of today, protection strategies are limited to promoting coral regrowth as reefs slow down storm surges, and providing easy access to high grounds for the citizens. Unfortunately, if we go down a high emissions pathway, the low-end estimate of 1 meter of sea level rise could be too much to handle for the Samoans.
Earth.org has mapped a worst-case scenario flood in Samoa by 2100 as a call to 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).
Mapping and methodology by Braundt Lau. Article written by Wing Ki Leung and Owen Mulhern.
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