The Pacific island Tuvalu which has been long expected to be engulfed by the sea is actually growing a few inches in size every year, a new study suggests.
A research paper from the University of Auckland analyzed the island’s features, its atolls, and more than 100 reef islands from 1971 through 2014, and the findings were surprising. Satellite and aerial imagery revealed that the atolls and three quarters of the island grew over the said period.
The growth was sizable as the island’s land area is now bigger 2.9 percent than the 1971 levels. The phenomenon happened despite sea levels rising at twice the pace of the global rates.
The findings, which appeared Friday in the journal Nature Communications, challenges the idea that low-lying land areas would vanish under the sea at this pace of sea rising.
Researcher Paul Kench noted that there is “growing evidence” that these tiny islands are geologically dynamic enough to offset the changes brought by global warming.
Tuvalu Defying all Past Theories
Plus, Tuvalu defies common theories that link a steady sea level rising with erosion. Instead of erosion, the tiny Pacific nation chose expansion. Researchers found that sediment brought by storms and waves can turn the normal erosion processes into processes that promote expansion.
The team did not challenge the idea that climate change is a risk factor for islands like Tuvalu. However, they think current theories should be adjusted to fit these new realities.
Rather than assuming that all low-lying locations are “doomed,” some populations that call these places home should stay put. Kench said that the study data clearly shows that Tuvalu will have a “markedly different trajectory” in the next century than estimated.
Study authors recommend for other island nations that face rising sea levels to be pro-active about the phenomenon and relocate populations onto elevated atolls and islands that are more likely to outgrow the sea rise.
Image Source: Flickr
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