OMG!!!! The Seas AREN’T Rising!!!!

Shocker: NYT admits the seas only rise in some areas, and islands aren’t disappearing. And the “science” was looking at aerial photos over time. Duh.

Remember when the Maldives govt held a cabinet meeting underwater for publicity?

On a wisp of land in the Indian Ocean, two hops by plane and one bumpy speedboat ride from the nearest continent, the sublime blue waves lapping at the bone-white sand are just about all that breaks the stillness of a hot, windless afternoon.

The very existence of low-slung tropical islands seems improbable, a glitch. A nearly seamless meeting of land and sea, peeking up like an illusion above the violent oceanic expanse, they are among the most marginal environments humans have ever called home.

And indeed, when the world began paying attention to global warming decades ago, these islands, which form atop coral reefs in clusters called atolls, were quickly identified as some of the first places climate change might ravage in their entirety. As the ice caps melted and the seas crept higher, these accidents of geologic history were bound to be corrected and the tiny islands returned to watery oblivion, probably in this century.

Then, not very long ago, researchers began sifting through aerial images and found something startling. They looked at a couple dozen islands first, then several hundred, and by now close to 1,000. They found that over the past few decades, the islands’ edges had wobbled this way and that, eroding here, building there. By and large, though, their area hadn’t shrunk. In some cases, it was the opposite: They grew. The seas rose, and the islands expanded with them.

Scientists have come to understand some but not all of the reasons for this. Which is why a team of them recently converged in the Maldives, on an island they’d spend weeks outfitting with instruments and sensors and cameras.

They were there to learn more about how the steady collision of blue waves and white sand does surprising and seemingly magical things to coastlines, both destroying land and extending it. Really, though, they were trying to answer a bigger question: If atoll nations aren’t facing certain and imminent erasure, then what are they facing? For having a future is not the same thing as having a secure future.

If, for instance, some of their islands become difficult to live on but others do not, then atoll governments will have to make hard choices about which places to save and which to sacrifice. In the places they save, they will have to plan for the long term about supplying fresh water, about creating jobs, about providing schools and health care and infrastructure. They will have to invent the best future they can with the limited resources they have.

In short, atolls might not be such outliers in this world after all. Look hard enough, and they start to look a lot like everywhere else…

To understand what had happened to the atolls since this acceleration began, two researchers, Arthur Webb and Paul Kench, decided to look down at them from above. The scientists collected aerial photos of 27 Pacific islands from the middle of the 20th century. Then, they compared them to recent satellite images. “I’m not sure we really knew what we would find,” Dr. Kench recalled.

Their findings caused an uproar.

The seas had risen an inch or so each decade, yet the waves had kept piling sediment on the islands’ shores, enough to mean that most of them hadn’t changed much in size. Their position on the reef might have shifted. Their shape might be different. Whatever was going on, it clearly wasn’t as simple as oceans rise, islands wash away.

Dr. Webb and Dr. Kench’s study, which came out in 2010, inspired other scientists to hunt for more old photos and conduct further analysis. The patterns they’ve uncovered in recent years are remarkably consistent across the 1,000 or so islands they’ve studied: Some shrank, others grew. Many, however, were stable. These studies have also added to the intrigue by revealing another pattern: Islands in ocean regions where sea level rise is fastest generally haven’t eroded more than those elsewhere…