ABSTRACT

Gopalakrishnan, T. and Kumar, L., 2020. Potential impacts of sea-level rise upon the Jaffna Peninsula, Sri Lanka: How climate change can adversely affect the coastal zone. Journal of Coastal Research, 36(5), 951–960. Coconut Creek (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.

Sea-level rise (SLR) is anticipated to be one of the most crucial factors putting pressure on the livelihood of human life in the 21st century. The Jaffna Peninsula, located at the northern tip of Sri Lanka, is no exception. This area lies entirely within 10 km of the coast and has an almost flat topography with a maximum elevation of 15 m above mean sea level (a.s.l.), whereas 50% of the total land area is less than 2 m a.s.l., making it highly vulnerable to coastal hazards, including SLR. An attempt was made to estimate the extent of land and paddy fields area that will be potentially inundated by 2050 and 2100 on the basis of different Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) scenarios. Across four SLR scenarios, the total land area of the Jaffna Peninsula that will be directly inundated by 2050 is 6.8–13% and by 2100 this value will rise to 10–35%. Moreover, the Jaffna Peninsula is projected to lose approximately 7193–13,595 ha of paddy fields by 2050 and 10,630–36,786 ha by 2100. Considering the uncertainty in the inundation model, the total land area that could be under risk of inundation is 46.3% and 49.1% by 2050 and 2100, respectively, under the low-end scenario (RCP2.6), and 47% and 58.5% under the high-end scenario (RCP8.5). The areas surrounding the lagoons and the adjacent islands are identified as being the most vulnerable to SLR. The scale of the anticipated inundation on land and paddy fields underscores the urgent need for action to ensure the sustainable livelihoods of the region's population.

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