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Bangladesh, Pacific Islands, Torres Strait

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Bangladesh

Finally, let's visit the country of Bangladesh where a large swath of the populous coastal lies very close to sea level. In fact, a one-meter rise in sea level would inundate 30,000 km2 and displace 20 million people. This area is already extremely prone to flooding from cyclones and this danger will increase with sea level rise.

Bangladesh Flooding

Shallow coastline on Bangladesh showing extensive Sundarban mangrove tracts Flooding in Bangladesh

Click the images above to see full-size versions and complete source information.

The following video provides a stark picture of flooding in Bangladesh in 2004.

Video: Complete Bangladesh Movie (3:33). This video is not narrated.

Pacific Islands

A dire picture also emerges in small island nations in the western Pacific, including Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands where sea level rise over the next century could cause these nations to completely disappear. In fact, the President of the nation of Kiribati has publicly stated that the 100,000 citizens in his country may need to be relocated as a result of climate change and sea level rise. In Tuvalu, large tides occurring in January, February, and March, and August, September, and October, known as King Tides, flood some areas of the main island and capital city Funafuti. Before sea level rise was a problem, these tides did not cause extensive flooding. Now, they are responsible for salinization of the soil which makes it infertile and for spreading diseases because of the leaking septic tanks, as well as loss of inhabitable land.

Like in the Torres Straits, inhabitants on many low-level islands in the Pacific are building sea walls to keep the rising seas out. However, in many places, the walls are built out of coral often obtained from fragile offshore reefs that themselves offer some protection from the rising seas.

Pacific Islands

Image of the low-lying island nation of Kiribati. Flooding in Tuvalu. Kids swimming around a tree during high tide. Kids playing on a flooded playground in Tuvalu Fuel drums being used as sea walls in southern Funafuti, Tuvalu

Click the images above to see full-size versions and complete source information.

Torres Strait

One hundred and fifty islands lie between Cape York Australia and Papua New Guinea, 17 of the islands are permanently inhabited by about 7000 people belonging to indigenous populations related to the Aboriginal peoples of mainland Australia. With an average elevation close to sea level and a large tidal range (spring tide is about 10 feet), the islands are very prone to the effects of sea level rise. Trends suggest that the island may be characterized by a slightly higher rate of sea level rise than the global average. Even if the islands remain emergent, as sea level rises, they will still be far more prone to the impact of extreme events such as tropical cyclones as well as regular high tides. With very limited resources, the islands have had a piecemeal response to rising sea levels by building sea walls along the low-lying area. Unfortunately, these walls are in dire need of repair and reinforcement. Torres Islanders have pleaded with the Australian government to help rebuild and fortify the sea walls to protect the vulnerable areas. In August 2011, the government appropriated $22 million to build the wall, however, they backtracked four months later and, thus, the plight of the islanders remains in jeopardy.

Torres Strait

Map of the Torres Strait region Warraber Island in the Torres Strait Sea wall in a high tide on the Torres Strait region

Click the images above to see full-size versions and complete source information.

So, a final word. As you can imagine, Hurricane Sandy has reinvigorated the call for flood barriers and sea walls at the entrance to the New York City harbor. Such structures are very expensive but would have saved an enormous amount of destruction from the storm. This is not the only city where flood barriers will be needed in the future as the video below describes graphically.

Video: RockWorks: EarthApps - Sea Level Rise Simulations (3:01)

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Click here for the video transcript.
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The following simulations depict 61 meter increases in sea level over the next 10 years. This 10-year time period was chosen for dramatic purposes, completely unrelated to scientific observations. Instead, these simulations, coupled with ominous music and low-frequency narration, definitively answer the biggest challenge currently facing mankind. In this simulation, the city of San Francisco, California is virtually destroyed. One of the only features left above water within London would be the clock at the top of Big Ben. The Opera House in Sydney would be completely submerged. Property values within Hong Kong would continue to rise. What can you do to prepare for these changes? Take your family and loved ones and head to high ground. Wait, first buy Rockware products, and then head to high ground.