Distant Storms as Drivers of Environmental Change at Pacific Atolls
The central Pacific Ocean with its many low lying islands and atolls is under threat from sea level rise and increased storm activity. Here, we illustrate how increasing frequency and severity of large scale storm events associated with global climate change may be particularly profound at the local scale for human populations that rely on lagoon systems for provision of a variety of goods and services. In August 2011 a storm originating in the Southern Ocean caused a large amplitude ocean swell to move northward through the Pacific Ocean. Its arrival at Palmyra Atoll coincided with transient elevated sea surface height and triggered turnover of the lagoon water column. This storm-induced change to the lagoon reflects long distance connectivity with propagated wave energy from the Southern Ocean and illustrates the increasing threats generated by climate change that are faced by human populations on most low-lying Pacific islands and atolls.
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