Assessing land elevation in the Ayeyarwady Delta (Myanmar) and its relevance for studying sea level rise and delta flooding

Katharina Seeger*, Philip Minderhoud, Andreas Peffeköver, Anissa Vogel, Helmut Brückner, Frauke Kraas, Dominik Brill

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


With their low lying, flat topography, river deltas and coastal plains are extremely prone to relative sea level rise and other water-related hazards. This calls for accurate elevation data for flood risk assessments, especially in the densely populated Southeast Asian deltas. However, in data-poor countries such as Myanmar, where high accuracy elevation data are not accessible, often only global satellite-based digital elevation models (DEMs), suffering from low vertical accuracy and remote sensing artefacts, can be used by the public and scientific community. As the lack of accurate elevation data hampers the assessment of flood risk, studying available information on land elevation and its reliability is essential, particularly in the context of sea level rise impact. Here, we assess the performance of 10 global DEMs in the Ayeyarwady Delta (Myanmar) against the new, local, so-called AD-DEM, which was generated based on topographical map elevation data. To enable comparison, all DEMs were converted to a common vertical datum tied to local sea level. While both CoastalDEM v2.1 (Kulp and Strauss, 2021) and FABDEM (Hawker et al., 2022) perform comparably well, showing the highest correspondence in comparison with AD-DEM and low-elevation spot heights, FABDEM outperforms CoastalDEM v2.1 by the absence of remote sensing artefacts. The AD-DEM provides a high-accuracy, open and freely available, and independent elevation dataset suitable for evaluating land elevation data in the Ayeyarwady Delta and studying topography and flood risk at large scale, while small-scale investigations may benefit from a FABDEM locally improved with data from the AD-DEM.

Based on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projections of sea level rise, the consequences of DEM selection for assessing the impact of sea level rise in the Ayeyarwady Delta are shown. We highlight the need for addressing particularly low-lying populated areas within the most seaward districts with risk mitigation and adaptation strategies while also the more inland delta population should be made aware of facing a higher risk of flooding due to relative sea level rise in the next ∼ 100 years.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2257-2281
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


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