Monday, July 1, 2013

Are simultaneous floods, drought an omen in the Pacific?

Terrell Johnson in Wunderground: For the tens of thousands of people who live in the Marshall Islands, a string of more than 1,000 low-lying islands and coral atolls in the North Pacific Ocean, last week's storms brought yet another reminder that the impacts of climate change aren't something that awaits in a far-off, distant future.

They're happening now.

Extremely high tides, combined with storm surge of 6 to 8 feet, lashed the coastline of the southern Marshall Islands around its capital Majuro on June 25, inundating the southern end of the atoll in up to 2 feet of water in many areas. Storm surge broke through the seawall that protects the Majuro airport, flooding the runway and forcing a United Airlines flight to fly over until the runway could be cleared of debris. Many coastal roads were flooded and many homes sustained enough water damage to force evacuations until the water subsided.

At the same time, many of the northern Marshall Islands are in the middle of their worst drought in recent memory. Failing crops and dwindling water supplies have made the situation so dire for the roughly 6,000 people on these islands -- many have been living on about a quart of water a day -- that fresh water and food are being carried in by boat.

"The elders tell us that there have been droughts like this before, but I don't think anybody has ever seen it where it's so wet," said Tony de Brum, minister for climate change to the Marshall Islands president, in an interview with Australia Network News. He added that, at nearly 70 years old, he doesn't remember a season like this one in his lifetime....

NASA image of the Rongelap atoll in the Marshall Islands

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