(Kobayashi comment: This article in Nature is about a year old, but is especially key for freshwater planning for islands in the South Pacific and elsewhere.)
Scott and Lindsey: May 2016
The millions of people—not to mention other animals and plants—living on islands already face unique challenges due to global warming. As seas rise and temperatures climb, islanders may have fewer choices for relocating people, infrastructure, or agriculture than larger countries do. Among the most serious public health and ecological threats facing islands may be freshwater stress. Nearly three-quarters of the islands examined in a recent study were projected to experience much drier conditions by 2050, with the situation worsening by 2090.
The bubble map at top right shows projected changes in freshwater stress by 2090 for 80 island groups around the world. Brown indicates increased freshwater stress, and green indicates decreased stress. The larger the dot, the larger the current population.
The bottom map shows small island groups that may be especially vulnerable by the end of the century due to a combination of drying and expected population growth. (Only the 22 island groups that had their own entry in the World Bank’s nation-specific population database were included in the second analysis.) The size of the dots on this map was determined by multiplying the projected change in freshwater stress in 2090 by the estimated population growth by 2050 (the farthest time horizon available for these islands).
Kris Karnauskas, the lead scientist on the research, explains that when he and his colleagues considered future rainfall changes alone, the models predicted that roughly 50% of small islands would get drier in a warming climate. But when it comes to freshwater stress, rainfall is only half the story. The other half is evaporation, and estimating evaporation from the land surfaces of small islands is something most global climate models—called GCMs, for short—don’t do.
The rest of the article may be purchased from Nature Magazine.