Are atolls static or dynamic?

Two views on sea level rise and coral atolls. 

The Weather Channel has a report on sea level rise and uses the Kiribati atoll as an example.  The highest point on the atoll is about 10 feet above sea level.  Sea level rise is between now and 2100 is expected to be between 1 and 5 feet.  The Weather Channel has a tale of destruction of the atoll and the population long gone.  This is pretty typical of the sea level rise and coral atoll predictions. All assume the atolls are static fixtures.

Professor Paul Kench, writing the The Conversation,  says Pacific Island atolls are dynamic.  They tend to respond and grow with sea level rise.  Storm surges and tsunamis tend to build atoll islands, sometimes reshaping them.  His study of atoll history for 5,000 years indicates that Jabat Island, in the Marshall Islands, was formed at a sea level 1.5 meters higher than the present.  This was consistent with The Great Barrier Reef and the Maldives which were formed under falling, rising and stable sea level conditions.  Studies over the last century have shown that islands survive and can grow with rising sea levels. Professor Kench’s theory is that the atolls are resilient and show a dynamic response to changing sea conditions.  Changing conditions may affect the population short term, but the long-term outlook is not as dire as predicted.

The static view says the island atolls are fragile and brittle.  The dynamic model says they can survive changing conditions and may well better explain how the islands managed to survive.



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5 responses to “Are atolls static or dynamic?

  1. All these atolls are remnents of volcanic islands, i.e, atolls are in Hawaii’s future. It is ludicrous to believe that the atolls will last forever. That damn pesky erosion making moutains into mole hills.
    I saw a program on the Alps a few weeks ago and it stated that the Alps are eroding and will end up much like the Applalachian Mountains. Even the Matterhorn will be torn down due to erosion. I wonder when the AGW zealots will link the Alps erosion with man made CO2.

  2. man-made co2 emissions would be stopped!!!1

  3. Jo Nova sums it up from The SEAFRAME sea-level study on 12 Pacific islands.

  4. Willis Eschenbach

    I discuss the question in two posts, “Floating Islands”, and “The Irony, It Burns”. Short version is that measurements show many of the atolls INCREASING in area. As usual, the Weather Channel has their heads stuck beyond the reach of solar radiation …

    On this subject, there is far more misinformation out there than information. The fact that atolls rise with the ocean was first noticed by Charles Darwin … who had the insight before ever seeing an atoll.


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