04 Jan 2023
04 Jan 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

Assessing land elevation in the Ayeyarwady Delta (Myanmar) and its relevance for studying sea level rise and delta flooding

Katharina Seeger1, Philip Simon Johannes Minderhoud2,3,4, Andreas Peffeköver1, Anissa Vogel1, Helmut Brückner1, Frauke Kraas1, Nay Win Oo5, and Dominik Brill1 Katharina Seeger et al.
  • 1Institute of Geography, University of Cologne, Albertus-Magnus-Platz, 50923 Cologne, Germany
  • 2Soil Geography and Landscape group, Wageningen University, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
  • 3Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering, University of Padova, Via Marzolo 9, 35131 Padova, Italy
  • 4Department of Subsurface and Groundwater Systems, Deltares Research Institute, Daltonlaan 600, 3584 BK Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • 5East Yangon University, East Yangon University Road, Thanlyin Township, Thanlyin 11291, Myanmar

Abstract. With their low lying, flat topography, river deltas and coastal plains are extremely prone to relative sea level rise and other water related hazards. This calls for accurate elevation data for flood risk assessments, especially in the densely populated Southeast Asian deltas. However, in data-poor countries such as Myanmar, where high accuracy elevation data is not accessible, often only global satellite based digital elevation models (DEMs), suffering from low vertical accuracy and remote sensing artefacts, can be used by the public and scientific community. As the lack of accurate elevation data hampers the assessment of flood risk, studying available information on land elevation and its reliability is essential, particularly in the context of sea level rise impact. Here, we assess the performance of ten global DEMs in the Ayeyarwady Delta (Myanmar) against the new, local, so called AD-DEM, which was generated based on topographical map elevation data. To enable comparison, all DEMs were converted to a common vertical datum tied to local sea level. While both CoastalDEM v2.1 and FABDEM, perform comparably well, showing the highest correspondence in comparison with AD-DEM and low elevation spot heights, the FABDEM outperforms the CoastalDEM v2.1 by the absence of remote sensing artefacts. The AD-DEM provides a high accuracy, open source and freely available, independent elevation dataset suitable for evaluating land elevation data in the Ayeyarwady Delta and studying topography and flood risk at large scale, while small scale investigations may benefit from a FABDEM locally improved with data from the AD-DEM.

Based on latest IPCC projections of sea level rise, the consequences of DEM selection for assessing the impact of sea level rise in the Ayeyarwady Delta are shown. We highlight the need for addressing particularly low lying populated areas within the most seaward districts with risk mitigation and adaptation strategies while also more inland delta population should be made aware to face a higher risk of flooding due to relative sea level rise in the next ~100 years.

Katharina Seeger et al.

Status: open (until 03 Mar 2023)

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Katharina Seeger et al.

Katharina Seeger et al.


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Short summary
Low-lying deltas are prone to relative sea level rise (SLR) and flooding, making accurate elevation data essential for flood risk assessment. We assess the land elevation of the Ayeyarwady Delta (Myanmar) in relation to local mean sea level (MSL) by generating a new, local DEM based on topographical map elevation data, and analysing the performance of 10 global DEMs, referenced to local MSL. We identify deltaic areas prone to SLR and monsoon flooding and interpret their relation to topography.