Amsterdam and the rest of the Netherlands have learnt to co-exist with water bodies, implementing sophisticated flood control systems over the last 50 years. However, rising sea levels are projected to overrun the barriers and drainage systems, meaning Amsterdam will have to invest and adapt to avoid severe flooding.

Earth.Org has mapped the extreme flooding Amsterdam could experience by 2100.

The Netherlands has been dealing with floods for hundreds of years and has learned to handle them. After a 1953 flood killed nearly 2000 people, a massive network of dams and levees was built. Indeed, 26% percent of the country is below sea level, and many agglomerations are built around water bodies with flood potential. 

From dikes, dams, and floodgates to floodable amenities like the Water Square Berthemplein and salt-tolerant crops, the Netherlands has the most sophisticated water control systems in the world. In fact, most experts in the field selling their services to places at risk, like Bangladesh, are Dutch. 

Despite this, the infrastructure in place today cannot protect Amsterdam forever. Meteorologists from Utrecht University say that a long term, controlled withdrawal will have to be considered. This is because the area and population that rising sea levels will put at risk would require a gargantuan investment and work to protect. 

Earth.Org has modelled what some of these future extreme flooding scenarios could look like in Amsterdam by 2100.

Sea level rise 2100

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.

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: is 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 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 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 to choose 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 Extreme level is based on RCP 8.5, of 4°C temperature rise.

Luck: applies to the 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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