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Sea Level Rise

Sea Level Rise

A website prototype mapping the sea level rise in the next 100 years.


Most environmental topics are subject to a hefty discussion – there is a lot of uncertainty, not only about the outcome of climate change but also about natural phenomena being observed. This is the reflection of the fact that the planet Earth is a complex ecosystem, whose principles are yet to be revealed. On the other hand, this scientific discovery takes place in the not less complicated »knowledge negotiation« in society.

The subject of our project is sea level rise (SLR), for a couple of reasons:
a) It is a global phenomenon, possibly affecting one tenth of the world population in the most densely populated areas.
b) There is a lot of speculation about the extent and effects of sea level rise, since there aren't any widely accepted models.
c) There are a lot of online resources about this topic, but most of them present just a single aspect or require a certain scientific literacy in order to be accessed.


A lot of people (our prior selves included) don't know that the »mean« sea level varies from place to place, furthermore its rise
will be everything but uniform. To understand this, we take account of the most important natural phenomena causing the mean sea level to rise. The illustrative melting of the polar ice caps is only the »tip of the iceberg«. The most important factor in SLR is the temperature rise entailed by the global climate change – this causes water to expand and thus take up more space. The study of past trends in the eustatic (mean) sea level also helps us (without explicitly knowing the reasons) to forecast future SLR. Another important local factor in SLR is the effect of the Earth's gravitational field.


In order to have a scientific statement, the above factors must be interpreted. There are more than hundred different research approaches and thus results / forecasts. To show this theoretical diversity, we choose three representative research frameworks. In two of them, a multitude of measured data is taken into account and used to generate complex models, capable of delivering forecasts for future SLR. Prof. Rahmstorf's approach, on the other hand, takes a single variable, temperature, and tries to express SLR as a function of it. The parameters of the function are a result of a calibration process using past SLR trend data.

Case Studies

One of our conceptual goals is to draw the attention to the regional differences in the effects of SLR. That's why we try to visualize case studies from six different, SLR-affected regions in order to show the broad spectrum of risks. The vulnerability of each country depends not only on environmental circumstances, but also on a range of socio-economical factors.
From a temporal point of view, there are two groups of effects caused by sea level rise short-term / ad-hoc and long-term effects. The situation of each country, as well as the possible threats are visualized on the map.

Risk Indicators

In addition to the above qualitative approach, limited to a chosen set of locations, we incorporated an existing assessment of SLR outlooks. In this module, each maritime country can be characterized by half a dozen numerical values.

The Map

The product consists of a geographical map as backdrop. On our map the ocean is the visual key motive. On the land, population and political borders are represented. We plan to incorporate the so-called LECZ (low elevation coastal zone) outline.

The above topics are accessible via a classical menu system but also partly via certain points on the map. In the case of Effects, some of the items are directly visualized on the map. In the case of SLR trends, a new overlay for the world ocean can be activated. The resulting heat map shows the regions which are especially threatened by SLR even in the case of a moderate overall trend.

When selecting a case study (either through the menu or by clicking a marker on the map), the map focuses on the region in question. At this zoom level there are more detailed information layers on these countries in addition the textual study itself appearing in a separate overlay. All the other affected countries are also clickable – this action shows their risk index. Selecting two of them shows a comparison of their respective risk indicators. Those values are presented in a double manner: the absolute value is superimposed on the relative one. This way we wanted to avoid that the viewer underestimate small countries affected dramatically (absolute value is low, relative high) or big countries affected marginally (relative value low, absolute high). On the bottom quarter of the screen a diagram can be summoned, which shows the risk index for all countries.


The project was developed in the course of the Map Interfaces class at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences under supervision of Marcus Paeschke and Sebastian Meier.

We have made some screen design concepts and base map designs but the texts, infographics and the website itself are to be done.

We used MapBox TileMill to draw the base map and the library package OSGeo4W for the preparation of some map layers.

Research was done online, resources will be noted if the project goes online.

Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im Hauptstudium


Marcus Paeschke

Zugehöriger Workspace

Map Interfaces


WS 12/13 - SS 13