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Scientists Report: Funafuti Atoll expands in Size Despite Sea Level Rise

Global warming has seen many small Pacific island nations raising concerns about sea level rise.

While in most studies this has proven to be evident, a report published earlier this month by the Geological Society of America, by five scientists, has revealed that despite the rise in sea level, the main atoll of Tuvalu, Funafuti, has been growing over the past 100 years.

The scientists who are based in Australia stated in their four-page paper that:

“The geological stability and existence of low-lying atoll nations is threatened by sea-level rise and climate change, Funafuti has experienced some of the highest rates of sea-level rise, totaling about 0.30 meter (12 inches) over the past 60 years. Despite the magnitude of this rise, no islands have been lost, the majority have enlarged, and there has been a 7.3% increase in net island area over the past century (1897-2013).”

The scientists analysed time slices of shoreline position over a period of 118 years at 29 different atolls at Funafuti to observe their response to sea level rise.

From their findings, the reef islands adjusted their size, shape, and position in response to the variations in boundary conditions, including storms, sediment supply, and as well as to the sea level.

These scientists said that: “The results suggest a more optimistic prognosis for the habitability of atoll nations and demonstrate the importance of resolving recent rates and styles of island change to inform adaptation strategies.”

They have also observed that some islands have decreased in size because of the sea level, however, the overall total landmass of Tuvalu has increased by 7%.

The report said that the observations in Tuvalu showed that islands can persist on reefs with sea level rise of five millimetres a year (.2 of an inch), noting that the sea level is projected to double in future, and that it is unclear whether the islands will continue to maintain their dynamic adjustment at these higher rates of change.  

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