Rising sea levels that submerge entire islands were supposed to be a distant possibility of an apocalyptic future. But in the idyllic Pacific, that future is here.
Five of the Solomon Islands have completely disappeared under water over the past seven decades, one drawing its last breath as recently as 2011, according to a study published in Environmental Research Letters.
Another six islands have lost more than 20% of their surface area, forcing communities to relocate as the shoreline closes in on their homes.
“The human element of this is alarming. Working alongside people on the frontline who have lost their family home — that they’ve had for four to five generations — it’s quite alarming,” the study’s lead author, Simon Albert of the University of Queensland, told CNN.
The study is the first scientific confirmation of what residents in the Pacific have been saying for years — their islands are disappearing.
The Solomon Islands are a sparsely populated archipelago of more than 900 islands that lie east of Papua New Guinea, and as low-lying islands are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rises.
The study, by a group of Australian scientists, used aerial and satellite imagery of 33 islands between 1947 and 2014 to track changes in land surface areas.
They attributed the changes to general sea level rises driven by climate change, as well as an intensification in trade winds, driven by both a warming of the atmosphere and natural cycles.
In the past 20 years, sea levels in the archipelago have risen 7 to 10 mm (.28 to .39 inches) annually, three times the global average. According to the International Panel for Climate Change, global rises will reach 5mm annually in the second half of the century.
“So the Solomon Islands are like a natural laboratory that gives us a good indication of what we can expect globally. What we are seeing there will become the norm,” Albert said.
The five islands that disappeared were not inhabited, although they were significant in size and communities used them for fishing.
The inhabited island of Nuatambu, however, has lost more than 50 percent of its surface area — more than 14,000 square meters — forcing some families to move to a higher volcanic island nearby.
But more worrying for the Solomon Islands is the likely relocation of Taro, a provincial capital, which will involve moving major infrastructure in health, education, sewage and electricity services.
“This kind of relocation will be incredibly complex and likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars, which will make the country more reliant on international help,” Albert said.
on 22/07/2016 4:42am
More alarmist rubbish
From the paper … Relative sea-level rise can also be the result of tectonics, the Solomon Islands are in a particularly tectonically active part of the globe with the convergence of the Pacific Plate, Solomon Arc block and Australian Plate causing localised crustal deformations (Tregoning et al 1998) manifesting as either island subsidence or uplift (Taylor et al 2008). Whilst the Isabel study site is considered to be in a more tectonically benign area, without active volcanoes, the Roviana site experienced an 8.1 megathrust earthquake in 2007 which led to the reef islands of Roviana subsiding by up to 60 cm (Taylor et al 2008). Island subsidence can compound sea-level rise rates and make these tectonically active islands particularly vulnerable under accelerated sea-level rise scenarios. However, the apparent resilience of islands in Roviana to subsidence, despite observed increases in coral cover on adjacent reefs attributed to deeper water (Saunders et al 2015), and only 1 (±1.4) mm yr−1 of vertical tectonic uplift measured in Honiara since 2008 (Jia et al 2015), suggests subsidence is not the primary driver of coastal erosion observed in this study.
The rapidly eroding islands identified in Choiseul and Isabel are all exposed to northerly swell and wind events that at times can be severe (Smithers and Hoeke 2014), with twenty-fold higher wave energy at Isabel compared to Roviana (figure 5). The largest net erosion since 1947 occurred on Sogomou, Hetaheta and Kale Islands on Isabel, causing erosive displacement in a south-south-westerly direction. Centroid shifting of these islands in a consistent direction (opposite to dominant wave direction) suggests erosion is not solely a result of sea-level rise (figures 4 and 5). Wave energy can interact synergistically with localised sea-level rise (through changing wave refraction dynamics and more wave energy propagating across reef crest onto the coast) to exacerbate coastal erosion (Storlazzi et al 2015) and thus may be a key driver of the rapid coastal recession in the Solomon Islands.
The higher local rate of historical rise is the result of both a larger global averaged rate of sea-level rise (Church and White 2011) and also stronger trade winds since 1990 (Merrifield and Maltrud 2011) which are directly related to the decreasing Pacific Decadal Oscillation index (Zhang and Church 2012). These PDO and ENSO conditions may ease in the Solomon Islands in coming decades to produce sea-level rise rates closer to the global average.
(So of course after all that, it was humans what done it… right)
What does NOAA have to say http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/residual.htm?stnid=734-004
What would they make of this, in 1837, the Maldives were disappearing in to the sea. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4173156
‘ The natives observe the atolls to be wasting away; in some the cocoanut trees are standing in the water ; in another the black soil of the island is discernible at low water thirty feet from the beach ; the south-east side of an island in Phaidee Pholo Atoll is entirely gone, but is marked by a banyan tree in the water. They say that some islands have disappeared entirely and instance near the island Wardoo a rocky shoal, which (they say) was once an island in Atoll-Milla-Dou.
on 22/07/2016 3:54am
Oh here we go again.
More fearmongering by the “owned” mainstream media outlet CNN.
I haven’t read much from CNN on the fact that sea levels have risen and receded for millenia, and that islands to in fact sink.
More miss information from an outlet never to be trusted.
Do your own research and don’t always believe their trollop.
Have a great weekend all and go the ‘Canes!!