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Coral Reef Islands Not Drowning, Episode 81

17 Jun 2020 | Science Notes

The drowning of the small Pacific Islands is a common alarmist trope and a reliable bit of visual propaganda. But as we’ve reported before, careful scientific analysis shows it’s not happening. In fact we’ve mentioned it several times. So we are not surprised to hear (h/t Benny Peiser) of yet more research showing that as sea levels rise, those Pacific atoll islands grow as well. Rather than drowning they rise too, keeping pace with the wave height, meaning they’ll drown in propaganda before they go under water.

The new study is based in part on use of a large physical model at Plymouth University in the UK, in which a scale replica of a Pacific coral atoll is subject to simulated wave action and sea-level rise. Since wave action is what created the islands in the first place, by shifting and piling up reef material, it stands to reason that the same process will continue in the future. And that is what the researchers found. Lead author Gerd Masselink explains:

“It is important to realise that these coral reef islands have developed over hundreds to thousands of years as a result of energetic wave conditions removing material from the reef structure and depositing the material towards the back of reef platforms, thereby creating islands. The height of their surface is actually determined by the most energetic wave conditions, therefore overtopping, flooding and island inundation are necessary, albeit inconvenient and sometimes hazardous, processes required for island maintenance.”

The small Pacific Island states have been among the most aggressive campaigners for climate action. Yet when it arrived in the form of the pandemic shutdown, wiping out international tourism, they were among the first to bewail the consequences. So maybe we can let the science settle the issue. They’re not drowning, even if they were the Paris Accord wouldn’t fix it, and like everyone else they are better off in a world with abundant, reliable energy including fossil fuels for transportation.

One comment on “Coral Reef Islands Not Drowning, Episode 81”

  1. Of course, islands in the middle of the deep ocean have to have some sort of foundation, invariably the tip of a submerged volcano, probably extinct, as the mantle hotspot moves on under the crust. Seawater of the right sort of temperature and depth allows a coral reef to establish itself, while storms destroy parts, some of which debris gets piled up inside the reef, leading to an island being formed, just a few feet above current sea level. If sea level rises, so does the reef, eventually leading to higher islands, but never more than a few feet above sea level. Entirely self-regulating...

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