USGS - science for a changing world

Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center

The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Pacific Ocean Atolls that House Department of Defense Installations

About Our Research
Aerial photograph of Kwajalein Atoll showing its low-lying islands and coral reefs. Photograph showing the impact of a large wave at the south shore of Laysan Island, with endangered Laysan teal in the foreground. Photograph on Roi-Namur Island during an overwash event, March 2014. Photograph on Roi-Namur Island during an overwash event, March 2014. Photograph on Roi-Namur Island during an overwash event, March 2014.

This study is a collaboration between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Deltares (an applied research institute in the Netherlands), and the University of Hawaii (UH). The goals of this study are to:

  1. provide basic understanding and specific information on storm-wave-induced overwash and inundation of atoll islets that house Department of Defense (DoD) installations, and
  2. assess the resulting impact of sea-level rise and storm-wave inundation on infrastructure and freshwater availability under a variety of sea-level rise and climatic scenarios, based on historical information, sea-level rise predictions, and global climate model (GCM) wind, wave, and precipitation output.

Read more in Overview.

News Photograph of a portion of a crocheted art piece called Medusa.

USGS coral expert in wide-ranging panel discussion on “Understanding Coral Reefs”

USGS oceanographer Curt Storlazzi served as a shallow-water coral expert in a panel discussion titled “Understanding Coral Reefs through Marine Science and Woolly Sculptures.” - October 2016

Photograph of scientist securing a wave-tide gauge on the reef flat.

USGS scientist delivers briefs on coral reefs and climate change

USGS oceanographer Curt Storlazzi briefed DoD, and DOI and its Office of Insular Affairs, on coral reefs and climate change in the Pacific Ocean.
- May 2016

Aerial photograph Ennuebing Island.

Many Atolls May be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change

The combined effect of storm-induced wave-driven flooding and sea level rise on island atolls may be more severe and happen sooner than previous estimates of inundation.
- October 2015

Aerial photograph of Kwajalein Atoll showing its low-lying islands and coral reefs.

Climate Change Reduces Coral Reefs’ Ability to Protect Coasts

Climate change may reduce the ability of coral reefs to protect tropical islands against wave attack, erosion, and salinization of the drinking-water resources that help to sustain life on those islands.
- September 2015

Aerial photograph of Kwajalein Atoll showing its low-lying islands and coral reefs.

The Influence of Coral Reefs and Climate Change on Wave-Driven Flooding of Tropical Coastlines

A new paper by researchers from Deltares and the USGS gives guidance to coastal managers to assess how climate change will affect a coral reef’s ability to mitigate coastal hazards.
- July 2015

See all news stories

Publications

Land-use change and managed aquifer recharge effects on the hydrogeochemistry of two contrasting atoll island aquifers, Roi-Namur Island, Republic of the Marshall Islands - Applied Geochemistry v.80

Observations of wave transformation over a fringing coral reef and the importance of low-frequency waves and offshore water levels to runup, overwash, and coastal flooding - Journal of Geophysical Research-Oceans 121

Changes to extreme wave climates of islands within the Western Tropical Pacific throughout the 21st century under RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5, with implications for island vulnerability and sustainability - Global and Planetary Change 141

Many Atolls May be Uninhabitable Within Decades Due to Climate Change - Nature Scientific Reports 5:14546

The influence of coral reefs and climate change on wave-driven flooding of tropical coastlines - Geophysical Research Letters 42

Will the Effects of Sea-Level Rise Create Ecological Traps for Pacific Island Seabirds?
- PLoS ONE 10

Future wave and wind projections for United States and United States-affiliated Pacific Islands- USGS Open-File Report 20151001

Island outlook: Warm and swampy - Science 19

Forecasting the impact of storm waves and sea-level rise on Midway Atoll and Laysan Island within the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument—A comparison of passive versus dynamic inundation models - USGS Open-File Report 20131069

The effectiveness of coral reefs for coastal hazard risk reduction and adaptation - Nature Communications 5:3794



Recommended citation: Laura Zink Torresan, and Curt D. Storlazzi, 2014, “The Impact of Sea-Level Rise and Climate Change on Department of Defense Installations on Atolls in the Pacific Ocean”, US Geological Survey, Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, DOI: 10.5066/F7QR4V4C

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

USA.gov logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: https://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/climate-change/atolls/
DOI: 10.5066/F7QR4V4C
Page Contact Information: Laura Zink Torresan
(lzt)