A regional study to assess the effects of sea level rise and resilience in the Caribbean

Published: 18 March 2020

Deltares, in cooperation with the World Bank, is working on a study in the Caribbean to assess the impact of sea level rise and resilience potential of 17 countries in the region. State-of-the-art hazard and impact models will be set-up to carry out the assessment.

Natural hazards

The Caribbean region suffers major economic losses from natural hazards. This can partly be explained by the geo-physical characteristics and location of the region, affected by major natural hazards including flooding due to storm, extreme waves and precipitation, winds, coastal erosion, earthquakes, tsunamis, tropical cyclones, volcanic eruptions and landslides. Additionally, as typical for most small coastal states, when a disaster strikes, a large part of the population, infrastructure and businesses, generally concentrated in the coastal areas, are directly or indirectly affected.

Climate change effects

Sea level rise, in combination with socio-economic growth, are likely to exacerbate this situation, which is already critical for many of these countries. In particular, the effect of sea level rise will lead to more frequent and intense flooding events and chronical coastal erosion, with a direct effect on the local economies.

About the study

In this study, Deltares and the World Bank, in collaboration with the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency are assessing the impacts of sea level rise resulting from an increase in coastal flooding and erosion in the region. The aim of the study is to derive proxies to estimate the resilient potential of each country in the region and their potential to adaptation. According to the project leader Alessio Giardino: “We are developing and applying an innovative modelling framework to be able to upscale the assessment to 17 countries. The assessment of impact and resilience potential of different countries in the region is going to provide interesting information on the relative vulnearability of each country to sea level rise and their options for adaptation”. The study is contributing to a World Bank flagship report to be published in 2021, which focuses on a holistic approach to resilience, with a specific focus on natural disasters and climate change in the Caribbean.

Modelling framework

To carry out the study, a regional modelling framework is being set-up including: a) a hazard module to estimate coastal flooding and erosion and b) an impact module to estimate expected annual damages and populated affected, for each country. Information from globally available models and datasets are used to derive the input conditions for this analysis. The Deltares models SFINCS (Super-Fast INundation of CoastS) and FIAT (Flood Impact Assessment Tool) are applied for the hazard assessment and will be further developed to be used for upscaling the assessment worldwide.

Example of simulated effects of sea level rise at Saint Martin, using the model SFINCS