PubTalk 9/2015 — Coral Reefs, Climate Change, and Atoll Sustainability
Will Micronesians become the U.S.'s first climate change refugees?
by Curt Storlazzi, USGS Research Geologist and Oceanographer
- Sea level is rising, threatening low-lying atoll islands throughout the western Pacific Ocean
- Climate change is degrading the coral reefs that atoll islands have developed upon, decreasing the reefs' ability to reduce wave energy and thus wave-driven island flooding
- Wave-driven island overwash events threaten the limited freshwater and agricultural resources on these low-lying islands
- We are trying to assess the impact of climate change and sea-level rise on the infrastructure, freshwater availability, and natural and historic resources of atoll islands under a variety of scenarios to determine "tipping points" - when islands are no longer habitable