A new U.S. Geological Survey study suggests low-lying atolls in the Pacific Ocean will be inundated by sea water sooner than previously anticipated as the planet warms.
Research oceanographer Curt Storlazzi of the USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center said in a statement Thursday earlier research suggested the atolls would remain above sea level for the next 50 to 150 years.
But he says a model that takes storm wind and wave action into account suggests they'll be inundated by sea level rise sooner. This will contaminate fresh water supplies and make the islands uninhabitable sooner.
A Storlazzi-led team studied Midway Atoll and Laysan Island in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument for their report. Both places have landforms and coastal features common to many islands in the Pacific.