Areas Vulnerable to Coastal Flooding & Sea Level Rise (m)

Global representation of areas that will likely be flooded at different amounts rising water due to a combination of sea level rise, tide, and storm surge

  • Source: Climate Central


The Areas Likely Flooded by Sea Level Rise dataset shows on a global scale which areas can be flooded at different amounts of water rise due to sea level rise, tide, and storm surge. The map presents sea level rise at 30-Meter, 20-Meter, 10 Meter, 5 Meter, 3-Meter, 2.5 Meter, 2-Meter, 1.5-Meter, 1.0- Meter, 0.5-Meter options. Areas that are inundated at each sea level rise value are masked in blue. The data used for surface elevation was collected from multiple sources that range from satellite imagery to flood maps between 1929 and 2015. The resolution of the dataset varies based on region in the world, with the contiguous United states being the highest resolution at 5 m and much of the rest of the world at 90 m.

This dataset was created by Climate Central under their project Surging Seas. It has been cited in over 5,000 articles, highlighted on the front page of the White House Climate Initiative website, and accessed by more than 60 federal agencies. It plays an important role in helping world governments understand the effects of climate change, make policies, and develop tools to effectively help communities in the instance of flooding.


The dataset was created by first combining multiple digital elevation models to create global coverage. Elevation data was then altered to be expressed relative to local high tide lines. High tide lines used were the average high tide line based on seasonal and monthly fluctuations (Mean Higher High Water). Next, two layers showing standard ocean water coverage and flood control methods for the United States were applied. Lastly, an algorithm was added to show how water coverage would increase based on different amounts of sea level rise, storm surge, and tides. The “bathtub method” algorithm shows water coverage in all areas below a given water height threshold that is input by the user. The final data was projected using raster and tabular data between 60 degrees north and 56 degrees south.

Elevation data for the contiguous United States came from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Coastal Lidar collection at 5 m horizontal resolution and information on Alaska came from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) at 60 m resolution. Elevation data for Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Corn Island (Nicaragua), Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Blas (Panama), Suriname, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago came from Climate Central’s CoastalDEM database at 10 m resolution. Data for the rest of the world was taken from NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Missions (SRTM) at a resolution of 90 m. High tide data was taken from the VDatum tidal model for the contiguous United States and a global tidal model supplied by Mark Merrifield of the University of Hawaii for the rest of the world.

For the full documentation, please click on the “Learn more” button.

Data shown on Resource Watch Map


Excerpts of this description page were taken from the source metadata. Resource Watch shows only a subset of the dataset. For access to the full dataset and additional information, click on the “Learn more” button.

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Formal name

Projections of SLR linked to Climate Scenarios


  • SRTM is known to overestimate earth elevations. It originally collects data on surface elevation and not bare earth elevation. The surface elevation data is corrected to show bare earth elevation, but it can be difficult to process and ultimately the values are just estimations. Areas with large buildings, vegetation, or other obstructions are most at risk of errors.
  • The USGS map on Alaska is from 1929 and does not have a reliable conversion to current reference frames. Additionally, it does not show any tectonic action, uplifting or subduction, that is common in the state and has occurred over the last 100 years.
  • Data on flood control methods is sparse. This study only included levees for within the United States and even then it did not consider the state of which the levees are in and if they are functional enough to control severe flooding.
  • Isolated areas of low-lying elevation are only shown to be protected from sea level rise if they are protected by a ridge of at least 20 m above the high tide line. Data with this precision was challenging to collect because flood maps in many areas have poor resolution and artifacts from rendering. It is likely that some of these areas are misclassified and some areas not classified in this category should be.
  • The dataset does not consider future changes like erosion or construction. Additionally, it does not consider the geology of the region and some areas with porous bedrock can be affected by sea level rise even if they are protected based on elevation data. This dataset should be used in conjunction with local site visits to get the best results.

Suggested citation

Climate Central, Surging Seas, 2018. Accessed through Resource Watch, (date).


Climate Central

Geographic coverage


Spatial resolution

Contiguous US + Hawaii: almost entirely 5m or better horizontal resolution. ⅓ arcsec resolution (~10m) in areas where NOAA Coastal lidar is not available Alaska: Approximately 60-meter

Date of content

NOAA Coastal Lidar: SRTM: 2000 VDatum: 2012 Merrifield MHHW: 2015

Frequency of updates


Published language



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