Vancouver has drafted a plan to stave sea level rise away, but they have yet to carry it out. Ice sheet melts magnified by Vancouver’s strong winter downpours result in frequent and damaging floods. 

Earth.Org plotted the flooding risk Vancouver could suffer by 2100 according to the current sea level rise rate.

Situated in the Burrard Peninsula, Vancouver is bordered by bodies of water where regions located in the lower mainland are at the highest risk of sinking. Population growth requires urban expansion, further increasing flood risk. Compared to the historical Fraser River flood 1984, what lies ahead could be catastrophic. Forecasts have estimated a total of 250,000 people displaced and US $30 billion in damages by 2100.

Vancouver’s flood control system was recently evaluated and 74 dikes proved to be too weak to go against future floods. The frequency of 1-in-100 year and 1-in-200 year floods could increase up to ten-fold in the next few decades, driving officials to undertake the Coastal Adaptation Plan (CAP) to strengthen the infrastructure. This plan has yet to begin, despite being announced nearly two years ago. While a task of this scale is difficult to implement, a sense of urgency is not alarmist at this point but rational. 

As a call for awareness, Earth.Org has mapped what extreme flooding would look like in Vancouver by 2100 if no action were taken.

sea level rise by 2100 vancouver

Sea level rise projections by 2100 for two scenarios with the amount of rise in meters indicated (mild = 3m; extreme = 5m). Population displacement indicated bottom right.

Sea level rise mapping methodology

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 by Braundt Lau. Article written by Eva Angla Seputra and Owen Mulhern. 

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