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Low-Lying Reef Islands and the Threat of Sea Level Rise
Woodroffe, C.D. 2008. Reef-island topography and the vulnerability of atolls to sea-level rise. Global and Planetary Change 62: 77-96.

Low-lying reef islands on the rims of atolls, according to the author, "are perceived as particularly vulnerable to the impacts of sea-level rise," especially, we might add, by the world's climate alarmists, who foresee many of them slipping away beneath the surface of the sea in the not too distant future. But are these dire contentions correct? Are the Maldives and other such island groups really destined to suffer this computer-prophesied fate?

What was done
In a paper that describes a number of findings germane to these questions, Woodroffe reviews our current knowledge of the structure and evolution of the rims of atolls in the Pacific and Indian Oceans -- including the morphology and substrate characteristics of reef islands that sit atop them -- together with their responses to past sea-level change, in order "to provide a basis for assessing the implications of anticipated future higher sea levels."

What was learned
The Australian researcher reports that his study of the pertinent scientific literature reveals that "reef islands exhibit a degree of physical resilience." More specifically, he notes that their "oceanward shores are often accretionary," and that they may even accrete "as a result of the impact of large storms," which is something else the world's climate alarmists keep talking about occurring in greater numbers as the planet warms.

What it means
Woodroffe writes that "shoreline erosion is too often considered a sign of climate change on atolls (foreshadowing the ultimate demise of reef islands), without consideration of the geomorphological cause of any individual erosion event and whether it is part of a general trend or merely one phase in a cycle that includes re-deposition," which is an integral part of what he terms "the natural resilience of these islands." And when the other considerations he describes are included in the mix of pertinent knowledge, they often indicate "net accretion rather than long-term erosion on most of [the islands'] oceanward shores," which is very good news indeed.

Reviewed 27 August 2008