Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Information is Beautiful: When Sea Levels Attack

What does a metre sea level rise actually mean? This is how we visualised some of the data confusion

from The Guardian

Info is beautiful: sea levelsView larger picture

(Info is beautiful: sea levels. Click image for bigger picture)


Another day, another set of bewildering climate figures. Today, key climate scientists withdrew their predictions of a metre sea-level rise by 2100. Other scientists meanwhile claimed the 1m figure was way too conservative anyway. They predict anything up to 2m sea level rises over the next century.

It's difficult to keep track of all this shifting research. And, in the midst of this reporting, there is one consistent but bewildering assumption made of us: that we understand what a one metre sea level rise means in reality.

A "1 metre sea level rise" is in the same domain as "1 ton of carbon" or "£1 billion." That is, it's meaningless without context or some link to our everyday lives.

So, in this diagram, I've tried to sum up all the current research on sea level rises. What will happen, when it will happen, and where the sea water is coming from. You can see the data and sources in this spreadsheet.

In an effort to make the information easier to relate to, I've also thrown in which key cities around the world will be most affected by the rises.

I hope it helps.

If you've come across any other data or sources, please let me know.

About the data
I've taken the lowest, most conservative figures I could find. Predictions vary widely. This is because there are a slew of different climate change prediction scenarios. Each one foresees a particular range of sea level rises, depending on ice-melts, temperature rises and many other factors. It's not an exact science.

The key sources are Sea Level Rise Explorer, studies from the Potsdam Institute (PDF) and reports from the IPCC Report (2001 - the most conservative one).

Information Is Beautiful
This chart is adapted from my book of data visualisation and infographics, Information Is Beautiful (HarperCollins 2009). It's available to buy on In the US, the book is called The Visual Miscellaneum.

For more charts and visualisations, visit

World government data
Search the world's government data with our gateway

Can you do something with this data?
Flickr Please post your visualisations and mash-ups on our Flickr group or mail us at

Get the A-Z of data
More at the Datastore directory

This piece originally appeared on The Guardian

Bookmark and Share


Agreed; we are not dealing with an exact science (actually it is/will be, but we just don't have all of the facts and we are in the infancy of our knowledge of this science). As time goes by, we will probably find that the predictions concerning AGW must be adjusted upwards. As new data is amassed, we will most likely find that many of us have been erring greatly to the conservative.

As far as data is concerned, NASA, NOAA and USGS have the most accurate. If one can place trust and faith anywhere, the scientists of these organanizations seem to be the most trustworthy. How can anyone deny data collected from satelites, U2s and countless, boots-on-the-ground scientific expeditions(don't make a liar out of me folks. I rely on your data).

Posted by: cjcold on 7 Mar 10

Post A Comment

Please note that comments will remain open for only 14 days after the article is posted. While previous comments will remain visible, attempts to post new comments after this period will fail. This helps stop comment spam, so your forebearance is appreciated.

The Worldchanging comments are meant to be used for further exploration and evaluation of the ideas covered in our posts. Please note that, while constructive disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting. We will also delete at will and without warning comments we believe are designed to disrupt a conversation rather than contribute to it. In short, we'll kill troll posts.

Finally, please note that comments which simply repost copyrighted works or commercial messages will be summarily deleted.

Yes No







MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg