Sea Level Rise Is Here, And Is Gobbling Up Islands

Sea level rise isn’t a distant threat: It’s already swallowing islands, according to a recent study.

The study found that sea level rise and coastal erosion has caused five low-lying coral atolls in the Solomon Islands to disappear into the ocean. These islands were vegetated — once densely-so with palms, oaks, mangroves, and other trees — but weren’t populated.

The researchers looked at 33 islands along the barrier reefs in the Solomon Islands, which comprises more than 900 islands northeast of Australia. They gathered historic photos of the islands dating back to 1947, and compared them to current satellite images.

They found that five islands had “been totally eroded away in recent decades,” leaving “dead tree trunks resting on hard reef platform.” In addition, six more islands had lost more than 20 percent of their area since 1947.

In two locations, the researchers note, shoreline recession “destroyed villages that have existed since at least 1935, leading to community relocations.”

One town on the Solomon Islands’ Taro Island began planning to relocate its population in 2014, due to sea level rise that threatens to swallow the island, which sits 6.6 feet above sea level. The president of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati purchased land in 2014 on on of Fiji’s islands, which it says it will use to relocate its residents if seas get too high.

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