By: James Felton/IFL Science Last year it became apparent that five islands had disappeared into the Pacific ocean. Part of the Soloman Islands, the low-lying reef islands were completely submerged by rising sea levels, all since the mid-20th century.
The islands weren’t inhabited, but other nearby ones were. On six of these, large areas of land were completely washed away, and two villages were destroyed by the ever-rising sea.
This worrying trend appears to continue. A new study has found that even more islands in Micronesia are being drowned by the Pacific Ocean.
Patrick Nunn, Professor of Geography and Associate Director of the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia’s Sustainability Research Centre, conducted a coastal survey of islands in Micronesia. He and his team also spoke to locals and looked at satellite images of Pohnpei and its surrounding islands.
The team was looking at what effect rising sea levels are having on the area. They found that large islands have completely disappeared.
“There was a famous island named Nahlapenlohd,” Nunn wrote in Kaselehlie Press. “This island was so large that in the year 1850 it was the site of a pitched battle; some stories recall that fighters hid behind coconut palms to avoid musket bullets. But today, there is no sign of Nahlapenlohd, not even a mound of sand marking where it once was.”
Nunn attributes the disappearance to rising sea levels, saying that they have consistently risen in most parts of the Pacific over the last 50 years, with a few minor fluctuations.
Many of the islands that haven’t disappeared have still suffered from erosion, including Nahtik which shrunk by 70 percent and Ros, which has lost around 60 percent of its landmass since 2007. Nunn and his team think this dramatic disappearance is due to the Bruun effect, where the rising sea takes sand from higher parts of the beach, dumping it offshore.
“While it is difficult to be certain, the weight of evidence suggests that sea-level rise is behind the disappearance and shrinking of the sand islands off Pohnpei’s southern reef barrier,” wrote Nunn.
In more positive news, the researchers found hardly any erosion along the shoreline of the main island of Pohnpei, which is protected mainly by its surrounding mangrove forest.