Singapore is one of the many cities that will be vulnerable to extreme flooding as sea levels rise. The city often experiences flash floods after intense rainfall, and the number of floods per year has been on the rise. 

Earth.Org has mapped the high-level flood potential the low-lying city could suffer by 2100 with current sea level rise projections. 

Local sea level measurements have shown a rise of 14 cm in Singapore compared to pre-1970 levels. The Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has recognized the looming threat this represents and drafted a plan for coastal defence. A Sg$100 billion dollar fund has been dedicated to adapt Singapore’s infrastructure to the rising water levels over the next 100 years. 

The previous requirements forced city planners to construct buildings three metres (9.9 feet) above sea level, leaving a 1 metre buffer against the two metre tide shifts. This will be changed to four metres for most buildings, but critical infrastructure like the Changi Airport’s Terminal 5 will be given a five metre buffer. It is difficult for scientists to agree on future models, so it remains to be seen whether the Singaporean precautionary measures will be sufficient. 

A recent paper published in Nature estimates that, under high emissions scenarios, global sea levels could rise by an average 1 to 2 meters by 2100. This would certainly increase the occurrence of so-called “100-year floods,” the term used to define a flood that statistically has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. If one of these surges hit Singapore, this is what it would look like.

Sea level rise 2100 singapore

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