Saturday, April 13, 2013

Storm surges, rising seas could doom Pacific islands this century -- USGS

Julia Pyper, E&E News via ClimateWire: As ice caps melt and sea levels rise, islands around the world could eventually become completely submerged, like real-world cities of Atlantis. Scientists have determined that the tides could consume low-lying islands in the next 50 to 150 years. But they'll become uninhabitable well before they're underwater, and that day might not be in the too distant future.

A study by the U.S. Geological Survey released yesterday finds that the two northwestern Hawaiian atolls of Midway and Laysan and Pacific islands like them could become inundated and unfit to live on during this century.

A fierce storm in 2008 drew researchers' attention to the issue of overwash, where ocean water comes ashore, damages property and natural resources but doesn't permanently submerge the island. On islands that are less than a thousand feet long and where fresh water turns brackish less than a dozen feet deep, overwash can have a crippling effect.

"If you have an overwash event, all of a sudden, you're salinating that fresh water; you basically kill the agriculture due to salt loading, and if you get [salt concentrations] over a few parts per thousand, it's no longer fit for human consumption," said Curt Storlazzi, a research oceanographer at the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center and lead author of the study...

Midway's eastern island in 1959, San Diego Air and Space Museum

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