Climate maps show swathes of Derry and Donegal at risk of being underwater by 2050

New climate projections warn large swathes of low-lying riverside and coastal areas of Derry and Inishowen could be under water as a result of rising sea levels by 2050.

By Kevin Mullan
Friday, 17th September 2021, 5:46 pm

A coastal risk screening tool developed by Climate Central, an independent organisation of scientists and journalists researching and reporting the facts about climate change, makes for stark viewing.

Its maps show City of Derry Airport and Foyle Port and much of the reclaimed slobland to the north east of the city could be below water level within 30 years, if climate change continues unchecked.

Closer to the city centre Waterfoot Park, parts of St. Columb’s Park, the low-lying area underneath the Peace Bridge below Ebrington Square and the North West Transport Hub are equally at risk. Riverfront areas from the Foyle Road and Brandywell to Prehen and the Bay Road will also become imperilled.

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Part of the Fort George site may become submerged and much of the Culmore point area - already prone to serious flooding - will be below sea level.

Inishowen and the Lagan will be badly affected by rising sea levels, according to the model. Climate Central’s projections show the low-lying Skeoge River and Burnfoot River floodplain will be completely submerged and that a new island could form at Burt opposite Inch - the coastal parts of which will be lost under the Swilly.

A large tract of fertile farmland from Bridgend to Newtowncunningham could become an inlet of the Swilly with parts of the waterway reaching as far as the N13 - the main Derry to Letterkenny road. Many coastal areas will lose acreage by 2050. The maps suggest dramatic changes around Trawbreaga Bay with water levels potentially rising to such an extent that the Isle of Doagh could become a bona fide island once again.

Tullagh Bay, Climate Central suggest, could extend almost as far as Clonmany, and Leenan Bay will become far longer and could extend inland as far as Urrismanagh and the road up to Mamore.

Climate Central says its sea level rise and coastal flood maps are based on peer-reviewed science in leading journals, however, the organisation admits its maps ‘incorporate big datasets, which always include some error’ and ‘should be regarded as screening tools to identify places that may require deeper investigation of risk’.

Outside of the US, it states, its maps are based on global-scale datasets for elevation, tides, and coastal flood likelihoods.

“Areas lower than the selected water level and with an unobstructed path to the ocean are shaded red. By default, areas below the water level but that appear to be protected by ridges (and in the U.S., levees) are not shaded. Our approach makes it easy to map any scenario quickly and reflects threats from permanent future sea-level rise well. However, the accuracy of these maps drops when assessing risks from extreme flood events. Our maps are not based on physical storm and flood simulations and do not take into account factors such as erosion, future changes in the frequency or intensity of storms, inland flooding, or contributions from rainfall or rivers,” the group explains.