Climate change presents the Pacific Islands with unique challenges including rising temperatures, sea-level rise, contamination of freshwater resources with saltwater, coastal erosion, an increase in extreme weather events, coral reef bleaching, and ocean acidification. Projections for the rest of this century suggest continued increases in air and ocean surface temperatures in the Pacific, increased frequency of extreme weather events, and increased rainfall during the summer months and a decrease in rainfall during the winter months.
Researchers discovered the island’s land area has increased by 13% since 1943 due to a buildup of sediments from the existing coral reef. Healthy coral reefs naturally produce sediment in fact, that’s what atolls are made of. The study’s co-author Murray Ford said, “You can still see an island grow at a time when most people and most models would suggest they should be eroding.”
Ford added, “We have found islands are resilient in the face of rising seas and that sediment supply to some atolls is out-pacing sea level rise.” “What we don’t know is how that will play out in the coming decades.” Nakao said, “For the atoll nations, climate change is not a distant threat for a future generation to face but an immediate emergency, with tropical storms and rising seas taking their toll on human lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure.”