Sea-level rise and wave-driven flooding could introduce saltwater so frequently into atoll islands’ freshwater resources that many will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century, according to a new study published in Science Advances.
Saltwater contamination of freshwater resources could make many atoll islands uninhabitable in decades
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, Deltares, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa focused fieldwork and model development on Roi-Namur Island on Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands for this study. Researchers used several climate-change scenarios prescribed by the U.S. Department of Defense to project the impact of sea-level rise and wave-driven flooding on infrastructure and freshwater availability. Their findings can be applied to atolls around the world, most of which have, on average, even lower land elevations than Roi-Namur. The Department of Defense provided partial funding for the study and received results in an earlier report.