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Are Pacific Atolls Sinking Under The Waves?–New Study Says Not

February 1, 2013

By Paul Homewood



The prospect of low lying islands in the Pacific disappearing under the waves is enough to get greenies wetting their knickers and Ed “Dopey” Davey, the UK Energy Secretary, putting his hands in our pockets to give billions away to the Maldives and the rest.

Of course, we already know that the Maldive government itself does not believe any of this rubbish. That’s why they are building new airports and tourist developments, as if they were going out of fashion!

But what do the proper scientists think, as opposed to the discredited rent seeking variety?

A new study by EC Rankey, “Nature and stability of atoll island shorelines: Gilbert Island chain, Kiribaati, Equatorial Pacific” , takes a close look at the issue.


 In a study that integrated field observations, differential global positioning system data, historical aerial photographs and ultra-high resolution remote sensing images that examined the nature, spatial patterns and rates-of-change of the shorelines of 17 islands on the Maiana and Aranuka atolls of Kiribati’s Gilbert Island chain, Rankey (2011) obtained a wealth of data that come to bear on this important question. And the conclusions he derives from that information are vastly different from the data-sparse contentions of the world’s climate alarmists.

Rankey found, for example, that short-term (four-year) rates of shoreline changes can indeed be dramatic, with significant intrusion of seawater over sloping shores. However, much longer (forty-year) rates of change are much smaller; and not all of his analyses depict shrinking dry-land surfaces, as some of the studied islands have actually been accruing above-water area. And so it is that he forthrightly and correctly states that "the atoll islands are not washing away."

Similar island surface responses have been found by Webb and Kench (2010), who studied 27 other atoll islands in the central Pacific, using historical aerial photography and satellite images over periods ranging from 19 to 61 years, during which time interval they say that instrumental records indicated a rate of sea-level rise of 2.0 mm per year in the central Pacific. Yet in spite of this sea level rise, they too found "no evidence of large-scale reduction in island area," noting that the islands "have predominantly been persistent or expanded in area on atoll rims for the past 20 to 60 years," adding that 43% of the islands "increased in area by more than 3% with the largest increases of 30% on Betio (Tarawa atoll) and 28.3% on Funamanu (Funafuti atoll)."

Years earlier, Connell (2003) had also found no evidence for the oft-repeated island doomsday claims, demonstrating the great importance of real-world data – as opposed to climate model simulations – when it comes to considering the current and future status of the Earth’s many islands. And so it is that Rankey concludes his analysis by counselling that "solutions must consider the natural complexity of these [island] systems, rather than advocate overly simplistic notions of the causes of, and the solutions to, coastal change."



It looks like the Maldives can carry on building their new airports after all!



  1. Jeffery permalink
    February 1, 2013 4:26 pm

    Saw the same report and forwarded to anothe list. Your commentary, however, is much better than mine. At least some objective science is going on these days, though we need folks like you to alert us to this as our vaunted mainstream media refuse to do so. I’m waiting for the responses that attempt to show the science above was funded by some or other evil green-hating industrialist. The good thing is that it won’t be found. I was recently reading the wikipedia article on Nazi propaganda and seeing the green revolution and its entrenched media efforts:

    “Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (…) The receptive powers of the masses are very restricted, and their understanding is feeble. On the other hand, they quickly forget. Such being the case, all effective propaganda must be confined to a few bare essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in stereotyped formulas. These slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward. (…) Every change that is made in the subject of a propagandist message must always emphasize the same conclusion. The leading slogan must of course be illustrated in many ways and from several angles, but in the end one must always return to the assertion of the same formula.”

    Yikes! Sounds FAMILIAR!

  2. February 1, 2013 9:59 pm

    does this explain why Holland is still there?

  3. Terbreugghen permalink
    February 2, 2013 2:50 pm

    As I recall, Holland was below sea level . . . . in the 16th century. A bit embarrassing. Unfortunately for the green/red alliance, no way to accuse evil, green-hating, world-raping, industrialists spewing global-warming, sea-level-raising, CO2 for that one, except under the auspices of a MeinKampfian propaganda blitz in which actual fact is ignored and a “leading slogan” repeated ad infinitum. Apparently the reason Holland is stil there has more to do with capitalists greedy for arable land stolen from the sea than any nature-conscious eco-pacifism.

  4. Dr K.A. Rodgers permalink
    February 2, 2013 5:05 pm

    I wonder if so many of the “experts” potificating upon atolls have ever stopped and pondered why they are there in the first place. Darwin did. Perhaps they should read his book.

    The emergent atoll is built on a living reef that grows upwards – towards the sunlight – with any sea rise. It is not just corals that are involved but calcareous Algae and encrusting foraminifera that are essential cementing agents. All need sunlight to flourish. In the case of Kiribati the reef growth has kept pace with sea level changes for millions of years. The volcanic stacks that provide the seamount cores about which the reefs flourish are at least early Tertiary if not Cretaceous in age.

    And I see refernece is made to the iselt of Funamanu, part of the atoll of Funafuti atoll. That is not Kiribati but Tuvalu – a different island group. [The reference is akin to saying Glasgow is in England.]

    Funanmanu increased in size by 15% one night in 1973 as a result of Hurricane Bebe. Hurricanes are not purely destructive. In this case the strom built a massisve hurricane bank (of reef roock) on the windward (eatsern) side of the atoll, inside an existing ancient bank, a product of an earlier hurricane, Both now protect the interantional airport from storm surges. Hurricane aggradation is a major factor in increase of reef area. The lower parts of the Bebe bank are being colonised apace by the living reef.

    Atolls are dynamic envrinoments. They are forever changing. Abrupt or gradual tectonic events may cause major permanent change leaving them perched high above the waves (Niue) or sunk far beneath (guyots) but those on the surface survive the millenia.

  5. Terbreugghen permalink
    February 2, 2013 5:12 pm

    This adaptive quality would appear to disqualify some atolls as indicators of long term temperature shifts or sea level changes

  6. November 7, 2015 11:46 pm

    Yes this article makes much sense. Indeed another potential answer to the Pacific Islands failing to sink into oblivion these past 200 years due to life giving C02 is the fact the seas are hardly rising at all. The oceans rose only 5 inches rather than 6 inches as originally thought over the past 100 years according to very recent research at Harvard and Rutgers. Think about the your experience with tides and waves at the seashore and you realize this small increase is imperceptible or de minimus. The massive sea rise soon as much as 50 feet predicted by the climate alarmists is unbelievable nonsense. The National Geographic published an article on this issue scolding the alarmists for their wild predictions about dooms day soon for the islands. Fifty years ago I lived on a small Pacific Atoll in the Cooks – Manihiki and it has just like the Maldives added a new airport because the land is expanding. Finally, the Antarctica is also expanding rapidly and now holds the record as the coldest place on earth raising the issue of another ice age creeping up on us. This is the largest glacier on the planet and so its expansion will retard further any ocean rise.


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