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Are Pacific Atolls Sinking Under The Waves?–New Study Says Not

Similar island surface responses have been found by Webb and Kench (2010), who studied 27 other atoll islands in the central Pacific, using historical aerial photography and satellite images over periods ranging from 19 to 61 years, during which time interval they say that instrumental records indicated a rate of sea-level rise of 2.0 mm per year in the central Pacific. Yet in spite of this sea level rise, they too found “no evidence of large-scale reduction in island area,” noting that the islands “have predominantly been persistent or expanded in area on atoll rims for the past 20 to 60 years,” adding that 43% of the islands “increased in area by more than 3% with the largest increases of 30% on Betio (Tarawa atoll) and 28.3% on Funamanu (Funafuti atoll).”

Years earlier, Connell (2003) had also found no evidence for the oft-repeated island doomsday claims, demonstrating the great importance of real-world data – as opposed to climate model simulations – when it comes to considering the current and future status of the Earth’s many islands. And so it is that Rankey concludes his analysis by counselling that “solutions must consider the natural complexity of these [island] systems, rather than advocate overly simplistic notions of the causes of, and the solutions to, coastal change.”

It looks like the Maldives can carry on building their new airports after all!