Australian scientists recently revealed that five Solomon Islands have disappeared beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Scrutinizing satellite images and gathering “historical insight from local knowledge,” the scientists concluded these islands have been wiped out as a result of climate change.
The Solomon Islands include almost 1,000 islands, and a little over 560,000 people live there. The researchers described the area as “a global sea-level rise hotspot.” They released their findings in a paper published by Environmental Research Letters. They looked at images of 33 islands from 1947 through 2014 and found that five “vegetated reef islands” are gone. Six more are crippled by “severe shoreline recession.” At two locations, such recession forced people to leave villages inhabited since 1935 to move elsewhere.
Related: America’s largest community of climate change refugees receive federal funds for relocation
Rising sea levels likely contributed heavily to the disappearance of these five islands, but it’s not the only factor to blame. The scientists also looked at wave energy to uncover a “synergistic interaction” between waves and rising sea levels. This means that islands in areas of the ocean more exposed to buffeting from waves are likely to be impacted the hardest by climate change. In fact, the researchers found that islands in a southern, “more sheltered” part of the Solomon Islands weren’t hit as hard; they “did not experience significant coastal recession.”
According to the report, it is crucial to understand how these environmental factors interact now so we’ll be better equipped to deal with the effects of climate change in the future. A few communities have already begun to prepare. Two years ago Choiseul, a Taro Island town of about 1,000 residents, announced intentions to begin relocating the entire population to a different island.
Images via USFWS – Pacific Region on Flickr (1,2)