The islands of Tuvalu, scattered over 500,000 square miles of ocean between Hawaii and Australia. It is densely populated and generally less than 3 m above sea level. New predictions of 1 to 2 m sea level rise by 2100 put the archipelago in serious danger of becoming uninhabitable. 

Earth.Org has mapped extreme flooding in Tuvalu by the end of the century as a call to curb emissions. 

Tuvalu is made up of nine tiny islands in the southwest Pacific, with a total landmass of just 10 square miles and highest point of 4.5 metres above sea level. Its population density is higher than that of Japan at 379 people per km2, and the low topology puts all of its 11,000 inhabitants at risk flooding from storm surges or even tsunamis. 

In 2000, the country was involved in a climate change controversy. The National Tidal Centre (NTC) claimed that after seven years of measurements, the sea level at Funafuti, the capital of the country, had actually fallen by 86.9 mm since 1993. This put all the climate change plans by the Tuvaluan government on hold. After reanalysis of NTC’s records in combination with other data, it was found that sea level at Funafuti was, in fact, rising at a similar rate as the global mean. In 2003, the data from the Funafuti station showed that sea level has risen there an average of 5.6 mm annually over the past decade.

As of today, there are no major forms of flood control, be it sea walls or relocation plans. Earth.Org has mapped the worst-case scenario floods on Tuvalu by 2100 to illustrate the need for action. 

sea level rise by 2100 tuvalu

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 Wing Ki Leung and Owen Mulhern.

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