Interactive map highlights sea level risk sites

Posted by | May 18, 2016 | News

A new tool from APSEA award winning team at NGIS have released a first of its kind tool to allow Australians to visualise how sea level rise driven by climate change will impact their areas.

A BETA version of the Coastal Risk Australia interactive webmap has been made openly available and charts the majority of Australia’s enormous coastline to show how sea level rise could impact Australia under a number of different climate scenarios. Coastal Risk Australia incorporates 3D LiDAR, Google Engine and local tidal data to accurately map how rising sea levels could encroach on cities, towns and beaches under three scientific scenarios.

The interactive tool clearly shows that iconic beaches like the Gold Coast and famous coastal spots such as Cairns in Queensland and Queenscliff in Victoria will be among the most vulnerable places to rising sea levels, and will help individuals, communities and all levels of government prepare in the decades to come.

The map has highlighted that if waters around Australia rise by 0.74 metres by the end of this century, some of the most vulnerable sites around Australia will include:

  • Queensland: The Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Cairns, Port Douglas
  • Victoria: Brighton Beach, St Kilda Beach, Queenscliff
  • New South Wales: Narrabeen, Byron Bay
  • South Australia: Port Adelaide, Hindmarsh Island
  • Western Australia: Cottesloe Beach, Mandura
  • Northern Territory: Kakadu National Park


The data was captured using airborne LiDAR technology to create detailed digital elevation models (DEM), which are then combined with ‘bucket-fill’ inundation modelling to create the map-based visualisations.

The calculated inundation is based on high tide, the Australian Height Datum and various sea level scenarios based on findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, as shown in the below calculation.

Inundation = Sea Level Rise Scenarios (Low, Medium and High) + High Tide + Water-Land (MSL-AHD) Offset

The underlying DEMs have been mapped in great detail using airborne LiDAR at a resolution of 5 metres along Australia’s coast.

NGIS Australia Principal Consultant Nathan Eaton said it was difficult for people to appreciate what rising sea levels in decades to come could mean for their homes, community and the places they love.

“Maps are a universal language that everyone can understand. This website allows every Australian to visualise our climate change future with pinpoint accuracy, and gain a better understanding of how rising sea levels will affect our coastline, neighbourhoods and favourite places.”

NGIS Australia built the website based on an earlier model used to map sea-level rise in the Pacific Islands.

“Our main goal is to raise awareness of how sea-level rise will affect the places we live, but this will also help all Australians prepare for change, from all levels of government, in policy, conservation and community engagement.”

Across the globe, sea levels have risen an average of 17cm over the course of the 20th century and the average sea level rise around Australia has been at a similar level. Scientists are forecasting sea levels will rise between 0.4–1.1m over the remainder of this century depending on how rapidly the world reduces emissions of greenhouse gases. More than 80 percent of Australians live near the coast and a Climate Council report has already warned that future sea level rises could put more than $200 billion of infrastructure at risk.

By Anthony Wallace

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