Global sea levels are rising and the world’s land ice is disappearing. Sea levels have risen 6 to 8 inches in the past 100 years, and Antarctica has been losing more than 100 cubic kilometers of ice per year since 2002, according to NASA satellite data.
By the year 2100, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that sea levels will rise as much as 20 inches.
While rising sea levels ultimately influence the entire planet, they pose the greatest threat to the islands currently residing at sea level.
Here are some of the islands — many of them small nations — likely to face this crisis first.
An island nation midway between Australia and Hawaii, Tuvalu is home to 10,640 people as of 2012, with a total land area of 10 square miles across three islands and six atolls.
Tuvalu is a volcanic archipelago and consists of three reef islands: Nanumanga , Niutao , Niulakita and six true atolls : Funafuti , Nanumea ,Nui , Nukufetau , Nukulaelae and Vaitupu . Its small, scattered group of atolls have poor soil and a total land area of only about 26 square kilometres (10 square miles) making it the fourth smallest country in the world . The islets that form the atolls are very low lying. Tuvalu’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) covers an oceanic area of approximately 900,000 km 2 .
Funafuti is the largest atoll and comprises numerous islets around a central lagoon that is approximately 25.1 kilometres (15.6 miles) (N–S) by 18.4 kilometres (11.4 miles) (WE), centred on 179°7’E and 8°30’S. On the atolls, an annular reef rim surrounds the lagoon with several natural reef channels. Surveys were carried out in May 2010 of the reef habitats of Nanumea, Nukulaelae and Funafuti and a total of 317 fish species were recorded during this Tuvalu Marine Life study. The surveys identified 66 species that had not previously been recorded in Tuvalu, which brings the total number of identified species to 607.
Tuvalu experiences two distinct seasons, a wet season from November to April and a dry season from May to October. Westerly gales and heavy rain are the predominate weather conditions from October to March, the period that is known as Tau-o-lalo , with tropical temperatures moderated by easterly winds from April to November.
Tuvalu experiences the effects of El Niño and La Niña , which is caused by changes in ocean temperatures in the equatorial and central Pacific. El Niño effects increase the chances of tropical storms and cyclones , while La Niña effects increase the chances of drought.Typically the islands of Tuvalu receive between 200 to 400 mm (8 to 16 in) of rainfall per month. However, in 2011 a weak La Niña effect caused a drought by cooling the surface of the sea around Tuvalu. A state of emergency was declared on 28 September 2011, with rationing of fresh-water on the islands of Funafuti and Nukulaelae . Households on Funafuti and Nukulaelae were restricted to two buckets of fresh water per day.
At its highest, Tuvalu is about 15 feet above sea level. Tuvalu has been on the front lines of demanding action on climate change.
In 2015, the prime minster, Enele Sopoaga, addressed the United Nations Climate Change Conference and said, “Tuvalu’s future at current warming, is already bleak, any further temperature increase will spell the total demise of Tuvalu.”