Published on 02 Nov 2023

Safeguarding Singapore’s coasts against sea-level rise


Professor Adam Switzer and Assistant Professor Stephen Chua examining a sediment core column

A study led by Assistant Professor Stephen Chua and Professor Adam Switzer at NTU Singapore’s Earth Observatory of Singapore has led into new insights into the interplay between rising sea levels and sedimentation, showing that a coast with high sediment supply, such as Singapore’s during the past thousands of years, could mitigate sea level rise.

During the Holocene epoch, which began around 11,700 years ago, coastlines globally retreated due to thousands of years of rising sea levels. However, a team of researchers at NTU Singapore found this was not true for Singapore’s coasts.

The study found that even at high rates of sea-level rise (five millimetres per year – one millimetre above current rates), Singapore’s southern coastal area stayed resilient and extended seawards.

Coasts usually retreat as sea levels rise, low-lying coastal areas get flooded, submerging coastal land and eroding coastal features such as cliffs and shorelines, leading to landward retreat.

The study found that the key to the resilience of Singapore’s coasts was the steadily high amount of sediment deposited around them, which acted as a safeguard against sea-level rise.

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