Alexandria-Nile Delta coast, Egypt: update and future projection of relative sea-level rise

Research paper by Omran El Sayed Frihy, Essam A. Deabes, Samy M. Shereet, Farid A. Abdalla

Indexed on: 21 Nov '09Published on: 21 Nov '09Published in: Environmental Geology


Previous studies have indicated that the Nile River deltaic plain is vulnerable to a number of aspects, including beach erosion, inundation, and relatively high rates of land subsidence. This issue motivates an update and analysis of new tide-gauge records, from which relative sea-level changes can be obtained. Estimated rates from five tide gauges are variable in terms of magnitude and temporal trend of rising sea level. Analysis of historical records obtained from tide gauges at Alexandria, Rosetta, Burullus, Damietta, and Port Said show a continuous rise in mean sea level fluctuating between 1.8 and 4.9 mm/year; the smaller rate occurs at the Alexandria harbor, while the higher one at the Rosetta promontory. These uneven spatial and temporal trends of the estimated relative sea-level rise (RSLR) are interpreted with reference to local geological factors. In particular, Holocene sediment thickness, subsidence rate and tectonism are correlated with the estimated rates of relative sea-level change. From the relatively weak correlation between them, we presume that tectonic setting and earthquakes, both recent and historical ones, contribute more to accelerated RSLR than that of dewatering and compression/dewatering of Holocene mud underlying the Nile Delta plain. As a result, large areas of the coastal plain have been subsided, but some sectors have been uplifted in response to tectonic activities of thick underlying older strata. Projection of averaged sea-level rise trend reveals that not all the coastal plain of the Nile Delta and Alexandria is vulnerable to accelerated sea-level rise at the same level due to wide variability of the land topography, that includes low-lying areas, high-elevated coastal ridges and sand dunes, accretionary beaches, and artificially protective structures. Interaction of all aspects (tectonic regime, topography, geomorphology, erosion rate, and RSLR rate) permitted to define risk areas much vulnerable to impacts of sea incursion due to accelerated sea-level rise.