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



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
Page Last Modified: 10 November 2016 (lzt)