Tuesday, 10 November 2009 9:01 AM

Climate Non-Change

In your article "Solomon Islands Makes Strong Statement on Climate Change" of 9 November 2009, you repeat the incorrect claim that rapidly rising sea levels are threatening low-lying coral atolls.

First, there has been absolutely no increase in the rate of sea level rise. In fact, in the last few years it has slowed down. This can be seen at http://sealevel.colorado.edu.

The claim is that the rising sea levels are overwhelming the atolls and contaminating the fresh-water lens with seawater. These claims of blame ignore several facts. The first and most important fact, discovered by none other than Charles Darwin, is that coral atolls essentially "float" on the surface of the sea.

When the sea rises, the atoll rises with it, and when the sea falls, they fall as well.

Atolls exist in a delicate balance between new sand and coral rubble being added from the reef, and sand and rubble being eroded by wind and wave back into the sea.

When the sea level falls, more sand tumbles from the high part, and more of the atoll is exposed to wind erosion. The increased erosion means that the atoll falls along with the sea level. When the sea level rises, wind erosion decreases. The coral grows up along with the sea level rise. The flow of sand and rubble onto the atoll continues, and the atoll rises as the sea level rises.

Since atolls go up and down with the sea level as Darwin discovered, the idea that atolls will be buried by sea level rises is totally unfounded. They have gone through sea level rises much larger and much faster than the current one.

As discussed in my "Viewpoint" article, "Coral atolls and sea level rise", in the Solomon Star of 5 March 2009, the problems in the low-lying atolls are not from rising sea levels. They are from coral mining and reef destruction, over-pumping of the water lens because of increased population, human-caused erosion, destruction of vegetation, and killing of the parrotfish that produce the sand required to keep the atolls afloat.

The bad news from this is that we only have ourselves to blame. The good news is that we can take actions ourselves to reverse the trend, and to preserve the islands and their precious water indefinitely into the future.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of Willis Eschenbach and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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