delware environmental institute

NSF Highlight: Global warming refuge discovered near at-risk pacific island nation of Kiribati

NSF Highlight: Global warming refuge discovered near at-risk pacific island nation of Kiribati

Scientists predict ocean temperatures will rise in the equatorial Pacific by the end of the century, wreaking havoc on coral reef ecosystems.

But a new study shows that climate change could cause ocean currents to operate in a way that mitigates warming near a handful of islands right on the equator.

Those islands include some of the 33 coral atolls that form the nation of Kiribati. This low-lying country is at risk from sea-level rise caused by global warming.

Surprisingly, these Pacific islands within two degrees north and south of the equator may become isolated climate change refuges for corals and fish.

"The finding that there may be refuges in the tropics where local circulation features buffer the trend of rising sea surface temperature has important implications for the survival of coral reef systems," said David Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences, which funded the research.