Tuvalu and many other South Pacific Islands are not sinking, claims they are due to global warming driven sea level rise are opportunistic

Nils Axel Morner and Don Easterbrook told them so. So did Willis, who had some very similar ideas.

We’ve mentioned several times here on WUWT that the claims about sea level rise and sinking islands are overblown. For example, this idiotic publicity stunt by the Maldivian government, signing a legal declaration underwater, demonstrates just how far some people are willing to prostitute their victimhood for financial gain. The MO:  You other countries warmed the earth, raising sea level which threatens our island.  Pay up sucka!

Yeah, well, that scam is now going the way of Nigerian email.

From TV New Zealand:

An Auckland University researcher has offered new hope to the myriad small island nations in the Pacific which have loudly complained their low-lying atolls will drown as global warming boosts sea levels.

Geographer Associate Professor Paul Kench has measured 27 islands where local sea levels have risen 120mm – an average of 2mm a year – over the past 60 years, and found that just four had diminished in size.

Working with Arthur Webb at the Fiji-based South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, Kench used historical aerial photographs and high-resolution satellite images to study changes in the land area of the islands.

They found that the remaining 23 had either stayed the same or grown bigger, according to the research published in a scientific journal, Global and Planetary Change.

“It has been thought that as the sea level goes up, islands will sit there and drown,” Prof Kench told the New Scientist. “But they won’t.

“The sea level will go up and the island will start responding.

One of the highest profile islands – in a political sense – was Tuvalu, where politicians and climate change campaigners have repeatedly predicted it will be drowned by rising seas, as its highest point is 4.5 metres above sea level. But the researchers found seven islands  had spread by more than 3 percent on average since the 1950s.

One island, Funamanu, gained 0.44 hectares or nearly 30 percent of its previous area.

And the research showed similar trends in the Republic of Kiribati, where the three main urbanised islands also “grew”  – Betio by 30 percent (36ha), Bairiki by 16.3 percent (5.8ha) and Nanikai by 12.5 percent (0.8ha).

Webb, an expert on coastal processes, told the New Scientist the trend was explained by the fact the islands mostly comprised coral debris eroded from encircling reefs and pushed up onto the islands by winds and waves.

The process was continuous, because the corals were alive, he said.

In effect the islands respond to changes in weather patterns and climate – Cyclone  Bebe deposited 140ha of sediment on the eastern reef of Tuvalu in 1972, increasing the main island’s area by 10 percent.

But the two men warned that while the islands were coping for now, any acceleration in the rate of sea level rise could re-instate the earlier gloomy predictions.

No one knows how fast the islands can grow, and calculating sea level rise is an inexact science.

Climate experts have generally raised estimates for sea level rise – the United Nations spoke in late 2009 of a maximum 2 metre rise by 2100, up from 18-59cm estimated in 2007.

Full story here. Even their source, the New Scientist was forced to admit the “good news” but says “sea level rise warnings stand”. Yeah, sure, whatever.


Here’s the abstract and the link to the paper. (corrected, the New Scientist provided link was originally bad)

The dynamic response of reef islands to sea level rise: evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the central pacific

Arthur P. Webba, and Paul S. Kenchb, ,

a South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission, SOPAC. Fiji

b School of Environment, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand

Received 22 February 2010;  accepted 13 May 2010.  Available online 21 May 2010.


Low-lying atoll islands are widely perceived to erode in response to measured and future sea level rise. Using historical aerial photography and satellite images this study presents the first quantitative analysis of physical changes in 27 atoll islands in the central Pacific over a 19 to 61 year period. This period of analysis corresponds with instrumental records that show a rate of sea level rise of 2.0 mm.y-1 in the Pacific. Results show that 86% of islands remained stable (43%) or increased in area (43%) over the timeframe of analysis. Largest decadal rates of increase in island area range between 0.1 to 5.6 hectares. Only 14% of study islands exhibited a net reduction in island area. Despite small net changes in area, islands exhibited larger gross changes. This was expressed as changes in the planform configuration and position of islands on reef platforms. Modes of island change included: ocean shoreline displacement toward the lagoon; lagoon shoreline progradation; and, extension of the ends of elongate islands. Collectively these adjustments represent net lagoonward migration of islands in 65% of cases. Results contradict existing paradigms of island response and have significant implications for the consideration of island stability under ongoing sea level rise in the central Pacific. First, islands are geomorphologically persistent features on atoll reef platforms and can increase in island area despite sea level change. Second; islands are dynamic landforms that undergo a range of physical adjustments in responses to changing boundary conditions, of which sea level is just one factor. Third, erosion of island shorelines must be reconsidered in the context of physical adjustments of the entire island shoreline as erosion may be balanced by progradation on other sectors of shorelines. Results indicate that the style and magnitude of geomorphic change will vary between islands. Therefore, Island nations must place a high priority on resolving the precise styles and rates of change that will occur over the next century and reconsider the implications for adaption.

(Corrected) Link to paper (paywall) is here

h/t to Purakanui

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So as long as the oceans don’t become acidified and kill the coral reefs, these island states will be fine.
Oops! I forgot.


See – heat makes things bigger too. Thermal expansion and all that.
I’d be more worried about the capsize hazard. Bigger islands are more unstable – or so I’ve heard.

Al Gore's Holy Hologram

2 metre rise my ass. There isn’t enough ice under threat of melting to cause anything like that and thermal expansion of the sea can’t come close either.


The Maldives is an Islamic theocracy which recently threatened a man with a jail term for publicly stating his unbelief. Why are we sending aid to these nutjobs?

Martin Brumby

@toby says: June 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm
Acidification? Yeah. Right!
Perhaps you mean an insignificant reduction in the sea’s alkalinity?
Acidification is another bogus piece of shroudwaving nonsense.
More chance of the islands being wiped out by an asteroid.

James Sexton

I’m wondering…….if the land mass is growing …….what on earth are we comparing to get “sea level”. It’s stuff like this that amazes me. It couldn’t possibly be that the sea level isn’t changing, it must be that land is growing!!!! Yea, that’s the ticket!!!………see the next crisis……we’ll grow out of the atmosphere and we’ll all suffocate!! The sky isn’t falling we’re growing into it!!!!

James Sexton

Poor, poor earth…..with the rising of sea levels and mass of ground growing, (all due to CAGW of course) it will inevitably burst from its seams and explode! 🙁

Nothing that surprises me, as I have shown in the past:
I’ll do another study this Summer, to figure out how things are going…

Ummm…isn’t it obvious that coral reefs and islands associated with them grow as sea level rises? Sea level increased hundreds of feet since the depths of the last ice glaciation, and I don’t expect that the coral reefs stuck up a few hundred feet and waited for the ocean to rise and cover them.

Adolf Balik

Recently a Czech power company CEZ decided to change machinery in one of its power plants for new one – more effective one. Then a diplomatic protest note came from Tuvalu to the Czech Foreign Department.

Hector M.

The article says that “the United Nations spoke in late 2009 of a maximum 2 metre rise by 2100, up from 18-59cm estimated in 2007”.
As far as I know, the revised estimate was made in a document prepared by a group of scientists, not by the UN or the IPCC. Anybody has more specific reference for this update of “UN” estimates of sea level rise by 2100?

I hate paywalls


Much as I thought. Coral atolls will keep building up as sea level rises. even sand islands will keep up as long as there is sufficient material brought in by wave action.
Some 15,000 to 18,000 years ago there was rapid sea level rise as the continental glaciers melted. I expect someone has done an investigation into the size of coral islands at that time and compared them to today. I think there have been measurements of the Great Barrier Reef, as it has existed through several floods and ebbings of sea level in the last ice age.
I know there are guyots, especially north of Hawaii, but don’t know how far below sea level the tops are, or when they were submerged, they sank as the extinct volcanoes were eroded and as they moved off the doming of the sea floor under the Hawaiian hot-spot. The water might have been too cold for corals to keep building up.

Henry chance

It the water goes up, they won’t have to walk as far to go to the beech.


That must have hurt the New Scientist.

With all these presumed sea level changes I’m getting dizzy.
There’s a story at the bottom of the link above that quotes an EU commission:

The extra economic effort required to reach the tougher reductions goal is “while still substantial, has fallen,” the commission argues. It estimates now that the total cost of such a move would be some 81 billion euros, just 11 billion more than had originally been costed in for the agreed 20 percent emissions cut.

So the cost has “fallen” from 70 billion to 81 billion?
Reminds me of George Orwell’s 1984:
“Choco rations have been increased to 25 grams per week, up from 30 grams per week.”


sheesh, does anyone really believe that any of these fools know squat?
The Pacific plate can hiccup and affect sea levels more than that and most of these islands are on it’s edge.

The whole region is tectonically active. Islands have risen several meters in a few minutes. Is it surprising that due to magma displacement other islands would sink?

Tuvalu likes propaganda. The Prime Minister said global warming was like “a slow and insidious form of terrorism”
They also beat the Nobel committee to the start line with the issuance of postage stamps featuring Obama.
See: http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/SeaLevelRising.htm

Alan Simpson

Crikey! The massive, ( stay with me I’m being generous here, again ), 2mm per year sea rise is going to inundate the Maldives when? Surely the Maldives are rising faster then the 2mm per year? Or is it all to do with rent seeking, surely they are, “entitled”, being poor and stuff.
Didn’t that nice Dr. Nils-Axel Mörne send them the good news?
Oh yes, he bloody well did, they chose to sensor it. Sigh.


There was an paper published fairly recently in Quaternary Research describing how coral growth is used to monitor sea level changes. Ahh, here it is: “Microatoll record for large century-scale sea-level fluctuations in the mid-Holocene” Yu, Zhao, Done, Chen (pp. 354-360 Vol. 71, No. 3, May 2009)
So these are flat-topped atolls that just barely break the surface of the ocean. So lets imagine they begin perfectly conical in shape and the water level is some 10 meters from the top. Coral will grow to almost the water line creating “shoulders” on the cone. Now imagine water rises again. The coral growth moves up the cone. Now say it drops. Coral growth moves down the cone. After tens of thousands of years, you can take a “core sample” and see where the sea levels have changed over time. These particular micro-atolls are also located where there is no discernible change in the underlying crust causing any changes in altitude of the atolls themselves. It is a very stable location, at least on the scale of this interglacial.
So it turns out that sea levels peaked somewhere between 7050 and 6600 years ago
and were about 2 meters higher than today. There have been periods of abrupt sea level drop. One recorded about 3300 years ago was a drop of around 1.5 meters (Holocene evolution of a drowned melt-water valley in the Danish Wadden Sea – Pedersen, Svinth, Bartholdy).
So basically sea level changes all the time. Sometimes by rather large amounts over relatively short periods of time (century scale). The expectation that sea levels (or temperatures, for that matter) should remain “stable” over century scale time periods seems unreasonable as they have never been particularly stable in the past.

Gary Hladik

Island politician: “Rising seas are shrinking our islands, drowning our homes, and destroying our livelihoods! We demand compensation from the responsible industrial nations!”
Scientist: “Good news! Your islands are actually growing! There is no danger!”
Politician: “Who the @#$% asked you?”


If they replace their fresh water pumping stations with desalinization plants the incursion of sea water into the existing fresh water wells will stop, too.


So now we know – the reason why the sea level is rising is because the land area is increasing. Simple physics:
More land area = less sea surface = higher sea level to hold the same water volume.
If the current trend continues it means that we’ll eventually run out of ocean surface area . No ocean surface, means no fishing, and billions will be straving. Even worst – without oceans the poor polar bears will not be finding any baby seals to eat and die. Now – that’s a strong image!
We must act now to stop the increase of the land mass area, or our grandchildren and the polar bears will die!

Leon Brozyna

That publicity stunt by the Maldivian government is in keeping with a proud tradition of extortion as practiced in the U.S., where well to do beachfront property owners repair or rebuild their dream vacation homes on the taxpayer dime via subsidized flood insurance.

Amino Acids in Meteorites

They’re going to tip and capsize anyway.

Justa Joe

The 4 islands that have lost territory need to sue the 23 islands that have gained territory because those growing islands must be displacing too much water and sinking the 4 islands, which have lost territory.
Leave us out of it.

Bruce Cobb

toby says:
June 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm
So as long as the oceans don’t become acidified and kill the coral reefs, these island states will be fine.
Oops! I forgot.

One CAGW/CC myth at a time, please. Thanks.

David Walker

Spot on Crosspatch, Flask and Roger Sowell!
At the ‘peak’ of the last ice age some 18,000 years ago, global sea levels were nearly 100m lower than today. As climate changed to this interglacial period, sea levels rose and peaked about 2m higher than present around 5000BC. Sea levels have been relatively stable for the last 7000 years.
Coral reefs are dynamic – they move up and down with sea level changes, although the time scale of response is not well known.


That formerly ethical and informative magazine has for some time now been known (in some circles, anyway) as the Nude Socialist (Luboš Motl) ☺☺☺


“So as long as the oceans don’t become acidified and kill the coral reefs”
Practically every coral reef currently in existence was dead as a doornail 15,000 years ago and a couple of hundred feet above sea level.


I would think that the French could provide a very comprehensive long term coral growth sequence from Mururoa Atoll, a thousand or so kilometres ENE of New Zealand’s North Island.
Mururoa Atoll was the site for a number of French nuclear tests.
The atomic devices for those “underground” tests were lowered down large holes bored deep into the island’s coral substructure and on the flanks of the volcanic origin rise that makes up the Mururoa Atoll.
[ One of those nuclear devices reputedly got jammed part way down one of those bore holes and the French had a real problem then.
They solved the problem by detonating it in any case, regardless! ]
No doubt there is a very considerable body of very comphrehensive coral stratographic data from Mururoa Atoll somewhere in the French war and defence departments that would be of great interest to sea level researchers everywhere.
And it’s accuracy would be very good as a very careful analysis would be needed to assess the effects of the nuclear blast on the surrounding Atoll’s strata.
A bit off topic but a very interesting trend is underway.
The lower level alarmists and warmista advocates are continuing to vituperatively attack the skeptics and luke warmers in their usual and mainly ad hom manner.
The skeptics and the unsure and doubtful are no longer very defensive but are now seemingly starting to enjoy themselves by employing a lot of sarcasm in their attacks and comments on a number of the most holy global warming / climate change shibboleths of the warmista movement as those beliefs are increasingly seen as just plain false and / or gross exaggerations and are starting to come undone in often a quite spectacular fashion.

Harry Eagar

jonjermy sez: ‘The Maldives is an Islamic theocracy which recently threatened a man with a jail term for publicly stating his unbelief.’
Not jail. Death.
dp sez: ‘If they replace their fresh water pumping stations with desalinization plants the incursion of sea water into the existing fresh water wells will stop, too.’
Not true. Most of these low atolls don’t have wells, as they have no Herzberg-Gryben lens of fresh water to tap. They catch rainwater.
On some of the really desert atolls, the main source of fresh water is runoff from runways the Seabees laid down during World War II.
In any case, none of them have money to run desalination plants. Most don’t have enough money to run a generator to have light bulbs.
Nitpick: desalinization is an ugly and inaccurate word. You don’t first salinize the water. That’s been done for you. ‘desalination’ is sufficient

Cargo cult science meets the actual cargo cultists.

Kwajalein Atoll. If hydrogen bombs can’t destroy an atoll, what’s a few millimeters of sea level rise?


Common sense will always eventually prevail. As an environmental engineer faimiliar with coastal morphology I can confidently say is common sense and didint really require research, but at least the scientists have re-invented the wheel and successfully came to the obvious correct conclusion, which is great! We have guys here though that specialise in coastal geomorthology that could have told them that years ago, and could even model the future changes – its not really a new concept and the tools are out there!
I was involved in a similar project in the UK once were environmentliast claimed a sand bar would disapear along with the beach and main access road under the sea, the problem is though, that the sand bar just moves with the sea. Unfortunetly the coastal defences they built to protect it interupted the sand flow onto the land and caused the road to undermine and wash away into the sea! Then defences sunk with the beach as the supply of sand was interupted with the defence wall.

Michael in Sydney

“Sea levels are obviously rising – I think in the short term [the study] suggests that there’s maybe more time to do something about the problem than we’d first anticipated,” he said.
From the ABC online

John Westman

Just a little more in regard to the Pacific islands “sinking”
As an example, Tuvalu! Tuvalu rides on a tectonic plate that is itself sinking-now you would think that would be a cause for concern. But Tuvalu, like the pacific islands is a coral atoll and has been built up over the millenia by dead coral. Coral grows in water to a depth of about 40 feet. Deeper than this, there is unsufficient light.
As the corals are constantly growing, and dying, there is a continuous supply of material to build the island which is built up by storm and wave action.
The only time Tuvalu will run into problems is when the rate of tectonic sinking exceeds the rate of deposition of the dead corals.
How long has this process been going on in Tuvalu. We don’t know! Drill cores on a neaby island went down to over 1,000 feet deep and was still in coralline structures. Obviously, Tuvalu has been growing upwards since time immemorial.

But the two men warned that while the islands were coping for now, any acceleration in the rate of sea level rise could re-instate the earlier gloomy predictions.

No evidence for concern is no cause for complacency. It is just as Girolamo Savonarola did shout over the bonfire of renaissance vanities …for the sword of the lord will strike swift and soon.
Codas like these are no doubt essential to ensure continuing funding. And the more fear, the more funding, so, with CSIRO continuing to pay good grant money hawking to Ozzie WUWT readers its Australia Coastal Survey on Property & Rising Sea Levels, it’s about time we all told CSIRO how scared we really are.


Darwin’s ‘Voyage of the Beagle’ contains a fascinating account on the formation of corral atolls. Corals grow on a sea-mount which constantly subsides whereupon increasing amounts of coral build up of the layer below.
Increased oceanic pH (or decreased alkalinity if you prefer), bleaching from fertilizers, and other anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic factors may disturb the balance – let’s not go into snip here. However, sea level rise per se if it occurs will not.
BTW, I’ve changed my name from CC to Chris1958 – no sinister motive other than commenting occasionally on other blogs under that name:-).

James Sexton

stumpy says:
June 2, 2010 at 5:03 pm
“Common sense will always eventually prevail…….”
Yeh, eventually. We had a similar situation here in Kansas. I live by a small river called the Neosho. It produces a very nicely smoothed brown gravel. We all(anyone who spent any time on it) knew this was occurring and the fact that they moved as the river dictated. We had a small industry that harvested the gravel. The river also has a small catfish indigenous to it called the Neosho river mad tomcat. (For years I mistook it for an infant channel cat, but I digress. One pinhead environmentalist decided the amount of gravel was static and it was the habitat of the small catfish. So, no more harvesting the gravel. Finally, after several years, it was determined the said catfish really didn’t care. It thrived with or without the gravel. Now, we’ve started to harvest the gravel again. The livelihoods and their children and the hardships, not to mention the retardation of economic growth, sad all that.
Common sense isn’t prevailing, pin-headed, malicious stupidity is just moving around to different places.


Love how your POTUS struts his stuff! Deep water exploration is tricky, not my problem screams, quitely, his knobs. You’re a bunch of crooks, he screeches. The devil sucks on fossil fuels, America is gonna choke on pollution. Our national security depends on Green renewable energy. Jeesh, you’re either an ignorant dupe or a usefull dupe. One thing is certain, you’re way over your pay-grade!

Jack Simmons

jonjermey says:
June 2, 2010 at 2:40 pm

The Maldives is an Islamic theocracy which recently threatened a man with a jail term for publicly stating his unbelief. Why are we sending aid to these nutjobs?

Why isn’t Allah taking care of these folks?
They are adhering to Islamic principles. Where’s the reward?

toby says:
June 2, 2010 at 2:19 pm
So as long as the oceans don’t become acidified and kill the coral reefs, these island states will be fine.
Oops! I forgot.
Trolling again today, eh? I’ll feed ya.
Would you please provide the amount of carbon dioxide necessary to reduce the alkalinity of the oceans from the current value of approximately 8.3 to below neutrality (7.0)?
And once you’ve calculated that, or provided a credible source from someone who has, would you please tell us where the additional requisite carbon dioxide will come from? Because it certainly doesn’t exist within the boundaries of the Earth/atmosphere system at present.

Son of a Pig and a Monkey

The Economist, formerly a reputable and reliable news journal, uncriticallypublished/publicized this Maldivean malarkey several times.

Alan F

There’s always tricking those on each extreme to an atoll and testing the really loud bit of Smokies’ hydrogen bomb VS mm sea level increase. It’s a start.


Only a half-brained unthinking moron would have ever believed this nonsense in the first place. It has never been about anything other than money and power.

James Sexton

This sea level meme is particularly irksome to me. Everybody simply seems to accept the numbers people throw out. When one stops and considers, it is exactly like measuring our temps……except less accurate. The above study illustrates this. The properties of mercury are much more finite than the land on which we measure the sea levels. The accuracy of a thermometer(mercury enclosed in a standardized tube) is much more than trying to measure the ever moving sea compared to the ever moving (yet, oh so slightly)land mass. It can’t be done to the accuracy of mm.


Michael in Sydney says:
I almost fell of my chair!! The ABC allowing a climate report to be aired that isn’t alarmingly, over hyped; Have the lefty journalists lost control?, or is it just that we have an Federal Election on the Horizon!
Next thing they will graciously “allow” a dozen sceptical scientists a few hours each to counter the warmist political tripe and drivel served up by the likes of Clive Hamilton, rest my soul while I wait to see that!!!