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Coastal flooding to threaten Vanuatu

Technology predicts catastrophe

More than 3000 people displaced by coastal flooding and large sections of Vanuatu’s two main towns inundated is the catastrophic scenario predicted by the end of the century. Coastal flooding is expected to reach disastrous levels in 90 years with the risk increasing significantly with current sea levels already affecting Vanuatu. This is the dire prediction from the Vanuatu Meteorology Services(VMS) and is based on the latest technology available. In a partnership between the Australian and Vanuatu Governments, the latest technology has been employed to look at the vulnerable coastal areas of Vanuatu.

A VMS spokesman said in these areas there is now an urgent need to better understand risks from sea level rise, coastal erosion and extreme events. The technology involved the collection of high resolution topographic and bathymetric data through Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) technology which was deployed for priority areas in Vanuatu – Efate, Malekula and Espiritu Santo.

He said that LiDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that provides extremely accurate, high resolution elevation data. Airborne LiDAR measures distances (and therefore height or depth) by sending a pulse of light from a laser scanner towards the area being surveyed. It then measures how long it takes for the light pulse to return. For establishing what is at risk in the coastal areas, this data is critical as it measures inundation levels, catchment boundaries and water flow.

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