A new website which projects sea level rise in specific locations is experiencing a suspected cyber attack. 

The NZ SeaRise website, which launched on Monday, has received up to 1000 hits per second, one of the co-leaders of the NZ SeaRise programme, Professor Tim Naish, said. 

He believed this could potentially be an autobot which had “killed the website”, Naish said. 

The team was working to get the website back up but it had been a pain as mayors and local councils had been wanting to look at the maps on the website, he said. 

While the “evidence was not quite in”, Naish said the website was being targeted. 

Naish said the team hoped the website would be back up by this afternoon.

Te Pūnaha Matatini's Disinformation Project researcher Sanjana Hattotuwa said while it was too early to confirm anything, the activity on the website looked like a Denial-of-service (DDoS) attack.

A DDoS attack is a cyber attack where the attacker floods a website with internet traffic to overload the survey and prevent users from accessing the websites. 

He said the site gained a lot of organic visits after media outlets reported on the research yesterday, but it is unlikely this many website hits are from authentic users. 

“To make it simple, you don’t have 1000 people visiting the site every second,” Hattotuwa said.

“If it is a cyber attack, it is quite significant for New Zealand. It then raises questions around the ability of civil society to host inconvenient discussions. It’s not a good sign.”

Scientists from the NZ SeaRise programme had designed the online tool that shows sea level rise projections by location to the year 2300.

They found that sea level rise in New Zealand’s biggest urban areas may happen 20 to 30 years earlier than expected.

The authors predicted the largest increases in sea level will occur along the southeast North Island along the Wairarapa Coast, where sea level could rise by well over one and a half metres by 2100 if we continue as we are. 

Through this tool, this is the first time New Zealanders will be able to see what sea level rise is predicted in the specific areas they live in by clicking on a particular location on the coast and seeing how much sea level is expected to rise, and by when, under different climate change scenarios.

Homeowners, councils, and businesses can also use the tool to assess the risks of erosion and floods in their area before making plans or policies. 

Co-leaders of the NZSeaRise Programme, Professor Tim Naish and Dr Richard Levy, said up until now the risk from sea level rise has been poorly understood in New Zealand because the current coastal hazards guidance does not consider localised vertical land movements. 

Vertical land movement is a term given to any activity that causes the land to move up or down over time. These include tectonic movements, groundwater extraction, and subsidence like sinkholes. 

“The addition of vertical land movements means that for many regions (such as Wellington and Auckland), sea level rise will be up to two times faster over the coming decades compared with previous projections, which were based on global average sea level rise,” the co-authors say.

Based on current international emissions reduction policies, global sea-levels are expected to rise about 0.6 m by 2100. 

“However for large parts of Aotearoa this will double to about 1.2 m due to ongoing land subsidence,” Naish says. 

“We have less time to act than we thought.”

Climate change minister James Shaw said in a statement on Monday, the new projections highlight why the government needs to prioritise cutting emissions and building climate resilience. 

“While the findings are sobering, the data shows why we must continue to build on the progress this government has made over the last four years to build a climate-friendly, prosperous future for Aotearoa – ending offshore fossil fuel exploration, upgrading schools, hospitals, and businesses to run on clean energy, and making it easier for families to purchase low-emission vehicles,” Shaw said. 

Later this month the government will publish a plan to cut emissions in every part of the country, he says. 

“Collectively, the actions that will make up the Emissions Reduction Plan will meet the climate targets this government has set. Achieving these targets will improve our towns and cities and help to create climate-friendly places for us all to live and work,” Shaw said.

Top image: A view of beachside homes in the Takapuna district of Auckland, New Zealand from directly above the beach. Photo: Getty Images

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