2022 Shortlist

Saving Singapore’s Shores

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 22/12/2021

Credit: Charlene Chua, Luo Mingxuan, Ryan Tan, Rachael Lee, Stephanie Adeline, Zachary Tia, Zeke Tan


Charlene Chua – Digital Graphics Journalist;
Luo Mingxuan – Designer intern;
Ryan Tan – 3D/Designer;
Rachael Lee – Designer intern;
Stephanie Adeline – Digital Graphics Journalist & project lead;
Zachary Tia – Data journalist intern;
Zeke Tan – Real-time Graphics Developer;

Project description:

To drive home the urgency of climate change, this story provides a simulation of how Singapore will be affected by rising sea levels, using the Merlion — Singapore’s landmark – as a scale. Using data from the latest IPCC report, we visualized the best- and worst-case scenarios for sea-level rise by 2100. The story also highlights the impact of climate change on extreme weather events, and the measures that are put in place to protect the low-lying island-nation – from nature-based solutions to infrastructures to funding climate research.

Impact reached:

The latest IPCC report garnered much attention to the topic of climate change, but most of the contents of the report remain too complicated for many. We are making this topic more accessible through the use of the 3D simulation and animated graphics to explain the complicated sea-level processes. This project will also be displayed at an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore from Jan 14 through Feb 8. The exhibition, called “Through the Lens,” is a celebration of the best in visual and interactive journalism. It explores the impact of global climate change on Singapore and showcases how even a small country can do its part to tackle the challenges of the crisis.

Techniques/technologies used:

This project uses 3D modelling in Unreal, and it required scaling the models manually to make sure they are accurate. The 3D simulation is then exported as a video and we used our video scrolly template to display them on the web. The animated graphics were created on Adobe illustrator, then animated using Adobe AfterEffects. The 3D map was created in Blender and was also exported as a video. In addition, we also used datawrapper for some of the simple charts.

What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part of this project was making sure we are accurate. First of all, the IPCC report itself is complicated and not easy to understand. Terms such as “ice-cliff instabilities” were totally new to us. The sea-level projections also come with caveats to the data. We consulted with researchers at the Earth Observatory of Singapore, who helped us understand the complex sea-level processes and made sure we were explaining and visualizing them correctly. Another challenge in creating this project was striking a balance between showing all the scenarios – even the extreme worst-case scenario, while also delivering the message that these are merely projections, and it’s not too late to minimise the damage. We strived for this balance through adding annotations in the 3D merlion scrolly, and also having the second part of the piece solely to highlight many of the existing and planned measures to protect Singapore’s coastlines.

What can others learn from this project?

We think it’s important make complicated topics such as climate change more accessible and understandable to readers who would otherwise not seek out information on this topic. While the 3D visualisation took a lot of work and back-and-forth to get it right and accurate, we believe this is the best way to visualize this data and drive this story home. We also think it’s important to consult with the scientific community to make sure we are representing the data as accurately as possible. In addition, as with any other climate change-related topic, it’s important to strike that balance between the problem and the solution.

Project links: