Deltas and Climate Change

“Facts About Deltas and Climate Change” describes the importance of deltas as population hubs for trade and their added vulnerability as sea levels rise.

Throughout human history river deltas have attracted people and today is no different. Deltas belong to the most densely populated areas in the world. Deltas are extremely fertile, often have large ports and harbours, and yet are on land that is hardly above sea level and most often below it, making them extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.
Experts count 33 major river deltas occurring worldwide, from the arctic to the tropics. They can be quite different from each other and are usually dived into river-dominated, wave-dominated, and tide-dominated deltas. This is in important when determining strategies for coping with climate change.
And in coming years, that will certainly be necessary. According to reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change climate-related changes during the 21st century will include an acceleration in sea level rise, further rise in sea surface temperature, more extreme weather events and storm surges, altered precipitation and ocean acidification. Deltas are already vulnerable but this could result in a 50% increase in delta surface areas that are vulnerable to flooding. At coastal zones and deltas these climate-related changes are expected to have a range of physical, economic and social impacts.
Deltas, however, can be protected. Unfortunately, many solutions of the past – the hard technical defence solutions that completely block the natural processes – need to be reconsidered. Because of global warming these are often not sustainable anymore. Recent research, also by dredging companies, is seeking “soft” or system-based measures in which natural, dynamic forces in deltas are re-instated and create a dynamic equilibrium between land and water. Flexible storm-surge barriers, rebuilding dunes, replenishment of beaches and many other innovative strategies will be needed to ensure the protection of people living in deltas as rising sea levels increase the threat of flooding.

“Facts About Deltas and Climate Change” answers essential questions such as:

  • Why are sustainable Deltas so important to civilisation?
  • How does a Delta come into existence?
  • Where are Deltas found?
  • Are all Deltas the same?
  • What are river-dominated Deltas?
  • What are wave-dominated Deltas?
  • What are tide-dominated Deltas?
  • Why are these differences important?
  • How does Climate Change influence Deltas?
  • How vulnerable are Deltas?
  • Why are Deltas vulnerable to Climate Change?
  • How can Deltas be protected in times of Climate Change?
  • What are some “soft” system-based strategies to rebuild Deltas?
  • What is being done to protect Deltas in times of Climate Change?
  • What else can be done to mitigate the impacts of Climate Change on Deltas?