Investigation of potential sea level rise impact on the Nile Delta, Egypt using digital elevation models


In this study, the future impact of Sea Level Rise (SLR) on the Nile Delta region in Egypt is assessed by evaluating the elevations of two freely available Digital Elevation Models (DEMs): the SRTM and the ASTER-GDEM-V2. The SLR is a significant worldwide dilemma that has been triggered by recent climatic changes. In Egypt, the Nile Delta is projected to face SLR of 1 m by the end of the 21th century. In order to provide a more accurate assessment of the future SLR impact on Nile Delta’s land and population, this study corrected the DEM’s elevations by using linear regression model with ground elevations from GPS survey. The information for the land cover types and future population numbers were derived from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) land cover and the Gridded Population of the Worlds (GPWv3) datasets respectively. The DEM’s vertical accuracies were assessed using GPS measurements and the uncertainty analysis revealed that the SRTM-DEM has positive bias of 2.5 m, while the ASTER-GDEM-V2 showed a positive bias of 0.8 m. The future inundated land cover areas and the affected population were illustrated based on two SLR scenarios of 0.5 m and 1 m. The SRTM DEM data indicated that 1 m SLR will affect about 3900 km2 of cropland, 1280 km2 of vegetation, 205 km2 of wetland, 146 km2 of urban areas and cause more than 6 million people to lose their houses. The overall vulnerability assessment using ASTER-GDEM-V2 indicated that the influence of SLR will be intense and confined along the coastal areas. For instance, the data indicated that 1 m SLR will inundate about 580 Km2 (6 %) of the total land cover areas and approximately 887 thousand people will be relocated. Accordingly, the uncertainty analysis of the DEM’s elevations revealed that the ASTER-GDEM-V2 dataset product was considered the best to determine the future impact of SLR on the Nile Delta region.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8



Sea Level Rise


Digital Elevation Model


Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission


Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer- Global DEM


Global Position System


Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer


Gridded Population of the Worlds version3


Land Use Land Cover


Standard MODIS Land Cover product


International Geosphere Biosphere Program


Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center


Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics


Mean Error


  1. Agrawala, S., Moehner, A., El Raey, M., Conway, D., Van Aalst, M., Hagenstad, M. and Smith, J. (2004). Development and climate change in Egypt: focus on coastal resources and the Nile.

  2. Akbari, A., Ramli, N.I.B. and Kong, N.S. (2015). Application of public domain satellite-based DEMs in natural hazard modeling. International Journal of Environmental Science and Development, 7(2).

  3. AL-Harbi, S. D., & Tansey, K. (2007). The accuracy of a DEM derived from ASTER data using differential GPS measurements, ISPRS Hannover workshop 2007. ISPRS.

  4. ASTER-GDEM (2011). ASTER global digital elevation model version 2 – summary of validation results. NASA LPDAAC & JPL, pp., 1–27.

  5. Band, L. E. (1986). Topographic partition of watersheds with digital elevation models. Water Resources Research, 22(1), 15–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Becker, R. H., & Sultan, M. (2009). Land subsidence in the Nile delta: inferences from radar interferometry. The Holocene, 19, 949–954.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Blankespoor, B., Dasgupta, S. & Laplante, B. (2012). Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Wetlands Impacts and Costs. Policy Research Working Paper 6277.

  8. Bohannon, J. (2010). Climate change. The Nile delta’s sinking future. Science, 327(5972), 1444–1447.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Brown, S., Abiy, S., Kebede, A., & Nicholls, R. J. (2011). Sea-level rise and impacts in Africa, 2000 to 2100. UK: University of Southampton.

    Google Scholar 

  10. Burrough, P., McDonnell, R., & Burrough, P. (1998). Principles of geographical information systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. CAPMAS (2014). Central agency for public mobilization and statistics.

  12. Chirico, P. G. (2004). An evaluation of SRTM, ASTER, and contour-based DEMS in the Caribbean region. URISA Caribbean GIS Conference.

  13. Dasgupta, S., Laplante, B., Meinsner, C., Wheeler, D., & Yan, J. (2007). The impact of sea level rise on developing countries: a comparative analysis. Climate Change, 93(3–4), 379–388.

    Google Scholar 

  14. Dasgupta, S., Laplante, B., Murray, S. & Wheeler, D. (2009). Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surges A Comparative Analysis of Impacts in Developing Countries. Policy Research Working Paper 4901.

  15. Ehlschlaeger, C. R. (1998). The stochastic simulation approach: tools for representing spatial application uncertainty. Santa Barbara: University of California.

    Google Scholar 

  16. El Raey, M. (1997). Vulnerability assessment of the coastal zone of the Nile delta of Egypt, to the impacts of sea level rise. Ocean & Coastal Manaoemen, 37(1), 29–40.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. El Raey, M. (1999). Egypt: coastal zone development and climate change: impact of climate change on Egypt.

  18. El Raey, M. (2010). Impacts and implications of climate change for the coastal zones of Egypt. In D. Michel, & A. Pandya (Eds.), The henry L (pp. 31–50). Washington, DC: Stimson Center.

    Google Scholar 

  19. ENVI (2008). User’s guide. ITT Visual Information Solutions: ENVI on-line software user’s manual.

    Google Scholar 

  20. FitzGerald, D. M., Fenster, M. S., Argow, B. A., & Buynevich, I. V. (2008). Coastal impacts due to sea-level rise. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences, 36(1), 601–647.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Geocontext (2010). Nile Delta shoreline profile.

  22. Gerald, F., & Ben, M. (2012). Comparison of SRTM and ASTER derived digital elevation models over two regions in Ghana – implications for hydrological and environmental modeling. Studies on Environmental and Applied Geomorphology.

  23. Gornitz, V. (1991). Global coastal hazards from future sea level rise. Glob. Planet. Change, 89, 379–398.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Guth, P. L. (2010). Geomorphometric comparison of ASTER GDEM and SRTM. ASPRS, Orlando, Florida: ASPRS/CaGIS.

    Google Scholar 

  25. Hereher, M. E. (2010). Vulnerability of the Nile delta to sea level rise: an assessment using remote sensing. Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk, 1(4), 315–321.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. IPCC (2001). The scientific basis (p. 881). Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Jelínek, R. B., Eckert, S., Zeug, G., & Krausmann, E. (2009). Tsunami vulnerability and risk analysis applied to the city of Alexandria, Egypt, institute for the protection and security of the. Italy: Citizen.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Jenson, S. K. (1991). Applications of hydrologic information automatically extracted from digital elevation models. Hydrological Processes, 5(1), 31–44.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. JPL (2014). SRTM, U.S. Releases Enhanced Shuttle Land Elevation Data.

  30. Leon, J.X., Heuvelink, G.B.M. & Phinn, S.R. (2014). Incorporating DEM Uncertainty in Coastal Inundation Mapping. PLoS ONE 9 (9:e108727).

  31. Maidment, D. R. (2002). Arc hydro: GIS for water resources. Redlands, California: Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Martz, L. W., & Garbrecht, J. (1992). Numerical definition of drainage network and subcatchment areas from digital elevation models. Computers & Geosciences, 18(6), 747–761.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Meshref, W. M. (1990). Tectonic framework. In R. Said (Ed.), The geology of Egypt (pp. 381–389). Netherlands: Rotterdam.

    Google Scholar 

  34. Moore, I. D., Grayson, R., & Ladson, A. (1991). Digital terrain modelling: a review of hydrological, geomorphological, and biological applications. Hydrological Processes, 5(1), 3–30.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Nikolakopoulos, K. G., Kamaratakis, E. K., & Chrysoulakis, N. (2006). SRTM vs ASTER elevation products. Comparison for two regions in Crete. Greece. International Journal of Remote Sensing, 27(21), 4819–4838.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Nuth, C., & Kaab, A. (2011). Co-registration and bias corrections of satellite elevation data sets for quantifying glacier thickness change. The Cryosphere, 5, 271–290.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Oksanen, J. (2006). Digital elevation model error in terrain analysis (p. p. 369). Finlad: University of Helsinki.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Oksanen, J., & Sarjakoski, T. (2005). Error propagation of DEM-based surface derivatives. Computers & Geosciences, 31(8), 1015–1027.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Poulter, B., & Halpin, P. N. (2008). Raster modelling of coastal flooding from sea-level rise. International Journal of Geographical Information Science, 22(2), 167–182.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Radwan, A. A., & El-Geziry, T. M. (2013). Some statistical characteristics of surges at Alexandria. Egypt. JKAU: Mar. Sci, 24(2), 31–38.

    Google Scholar 

  41. Reuter, H. I., Hengl, T., Gessler, P., & Soille, P. (2009). Preparation of DEMs for geomorphometric analysis. In H. Tomislav, & I. R. Hannes (Eds.), Geomorphometry: concepts (pp. 87–120). Software, Applications: Elsevier.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Rosetta(2010). Egypt’s Nile delta falls prey to climate change. Al Arabiya News.

  43. SEDAC (2013). Gridded population of the world (GPW), V3.

  44. Sefercik, U., Jacobsen, K., Oruc, M., & Marangoz, A. (2007). Comparison of spot, SRTM and ASTER DEMS, ISPRS Hannover workshop 2007. ISPRS.

  45. Simonett, O. (2012). Potential impact of sea level rise: Nile Delta, UNEP/GRID; G. Sestini, Florence; Remote Sensing Center, Cairo; DIERCKE Weltwirtschaftsatlas.

  46. Snoussi, M., Ouchani, T., & Niazi, S. (2008). Vulnerability assessment of the impact of sea-level rise and flooding on the Moroccan coast: the case of the Mediterranean eastern zone. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 77(2), 206–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. SRTM-DEM, 2006. Shuttle radar topography mission DTED level 1 (3-arc second) documentation. NASA/LPDAAC and USGS/EROS, pp. 1–8.

  48. Stanley, D. J. (1996). Nile delta: extreme case of sediment entrapment. Journal of Marine Geology, 129, 189–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  49. Stanley, J. D. (2005). Submergence and burial of ancient coastal sites on the subsiding Nile delta margin, Egypt. Méditerranée, 104, 64–73.

    Google Scholar 

  50. Suwandana, E., Kawamura, K., Sakuno, Y., Kustiyanto, E., & Raharjo, B. (2012). Evaluation of ASTER GDEM2 in comparison with GDEM1, SRTM DEM and topographic-map-derived DEM using inundation area analysis and RTK-dGPS data. Remote Sensing, 4(12), 2419–2431.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Wise, S. (2000). Assessing the quality for hydrological applications of digital elevation models derived from contours. Hydrological Processes, 14(11–12), 1909–1929.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  52. Wu, S., Li, J., & Huang, G. (2008). A study on DEM-derived primary topographic attributes for hydrologic applications: sensitivity to elevation data resolution. Applied Geography, 28(3), 210–223.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  53. Xuejun, L., & Lu, B. (2008). Accuracy assessment of DEM slope algorithms related to spatial autocorrelation of DEM errors. In B. Lees, & G.-a. Tang (Eds.), Q. Zhou (pp. 307–322). Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg: Advances in Digital Terrain Analysis. Lecture Notes in Geoinformation and Cartography.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Yalciner, A. C., Zaytsev, A., Aytore, B., Heidarzadeh, M., Kian, R., & Imamura, F. (2014). A possible submarine landslide and associated tsunami at the northwest Nile delta, Mediterranean sea. Oceanography, 27(2), 68–75.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Zandbergen, P. A. (2011). Error propagation modeling for terrain analysis using dynamic simulation tools in ArcGIS modelbuilder.

Download references


The first author acknowledges the Mission sector of the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific research for providing the financial support to conduct this research in the United States of America through a PhD scholarship. The Advanced Radar Research Center (ARRC) group and the Hydrometrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory (HyDROS) research group at the University of Oklahoma for provided the research facilities for this work. We would like to thank Kayla L. Brandt for the English correction and the Manuscript editing. Thanks goes to Ms. Jenny Bailey for the manuscript proof reading and her fruitful comments that added more value to this work.

The DEM datasets and MODIS LULC products are from the Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). The gridded population maps are acquired from SEDAC.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Emad Hasan.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Hasan, E., Khan, S.I. & Hong, Y. Investigation of potential sea level rise impact on the Nile Delta, Egypt using digital elevation models. Environ Monit Assess 187, 649 (2015).

Download citation


  • Sea level rise
  • Climate changes
  • And Nile Delta Egypt