Many U.S. Pacific islands are atolls fringed with coral reefs and have maximum elevations of 3–5 meters, with mean elevations of 1–2 meters.
At right, observed trends in sea level between 1993 and 2010 (Laboratory for Satellite Altimetry, 2011). Note the high rates (5-10 millimeters/year) of sea-level rise in the western Pacific and central Indian Oceans where Department of Defense-managed atolls (Kwajalein, Wake, and Diego Garcia) are located. [Larger version]
At right, graph depicting global sea-level rise through present, with four possible scenarios for the future. [Larger version]
A high surf event in December 2008 overwashed numerous atolls in Micronesia, ruining freshwater supplies and destroying agriculture on approximately 60% of the inhabited islands.
At right, overwash on Kwajalein Island, December 2008.
Photos courtesy of Department of Defense, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (DoD USAKA).
Sea-level rise will exacerbate the hazards posed by climate change (storms, waves, temperatures, precipitation, etc.) to infrastructure, freshwater supplies, agriculture, and habitats for threatened and endangered species on U.S. and U.S.-affiliated atoll islands.
At right, overwash on Roi-Namur Island, December 2008.
Photo courtesy of Department of Defense, U.S. Army Kwajalein Atoll (DoD USAKA).