19 February, 2007

Climate Change flood-maps: How would YOUR suburb cope if both Polar ice-caps melted?

This is what Europe and the USA could look like if the North and South Poles both melted completely, sending sea levels up by a disastrous seven metres. Add to this the variable effect of tides, and the rise in some places could be up as much as an apocalyptic FOURTEEN metres.

A fascinating Climate Change flood-map website (using NASA and Google technology) allows you to view not only continents, but cities, towns and detailed views of suburbs and streets as they are now and would be after sea levels rises of between 1 and 14 metres.

After your map appears, you can select a continent from the menu, then navigate to your own town or suburb and zoom in. The closer you zoom in, the more streets and names will appear. You can also toggle between a map, a satellite picture, or a hybrid of the two. Warning - this is highly addictive browsing, known to provoke comments like: “Oh shit, Aunt Aggie’s house won’t need a pool anymore” (etc). Click
here to start paddling.

You can instantly flood your home city with between 1 - 14 metres of sea-water. Simply click any number between 1 and 14 in the “Sea level rise” dropdown menu on the top left. Enjoy your swim.
As a specific example, have a look at As an example, look at Adelaide and suburbs. I set the default to O metres so you can have fun gradually flooding the place. Goodbye airport. Goodbye Henley Beach and Glenelg. Use the zoom tool on the left of the screen to locate where your street used to be.

Dancers in Bangkok attempt to appease the local 'guardian spirits of the land' to ward off further flooding. Many hundreds of square miles are at risk from climate change in the Chao Phraya basin at the north of the Gulf of Thailand. Have a google at it on the map. Scary, dude.

The compiler of this delightfully interactive website comments that this NASA-Google technology in fact consistently overestimates land heights, particularly in built-up areas with tree cover and many buildings. (The satellite probably reads the tops of the buildings and trees as representing the land height - the maker of the map was careful not to be seen as alarmist and thereby lose credibility). Neither do the maps take into account the very considerable and varied effects of tides, therfore sea-level rises as high as 14 metres are not at all out of the question. Eeek... where are my water-wings?

Pure science fiction, you reckon? Reflect on this genuine photo of an iceberg which broke free off Canada: it contained 300 million tons of ice, soon to become water... coming to a beach near YOU:

No need for preaching from me about Global Warming... surfing these flood-maps should be quite enough to turn you into a raving anti-globalisation greenie like moi. I've already written about Global Warming (go to "Browse by Category" on the right-hand column of this blog, and click on the 'Environment' link). But there's one article in particular which relates closely to these flood-maps: it's to do with Climate Refugees.

The city of Wellington, NZ. Artist's impression of inundation.

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