Key Idea Climate change presents U.S.-affiliated islands with unique challenges. Small islands are vulnerable to sea-level rise, extreme weather events, coral reef bleaching, ocean acidification, and contamination of freshwater resources with saltwater. The islands have experienced rising temperatures and sea levels in recent decades. Projections for the rest of this century suggest continued increases in air and ocean surface temperatures in both the Pacific and Caribbean, an overall decrease in rainfall in the Caribbean, an increased frequency of heavy downpours nearly everywhere, and increased rainfall during the summer months (rather than the normal rainy season in the winter months) for the Pacific islands. Hurricane wind speeds and rainfall rates are likely to increase with continued warming. Island coasts will be at increased risk of inundation due to sea-level rise and storm surge with major implications for coastal communities, infrastructure, natural habitats, and resources.

(Resource and Key Idea include a graph of observed and projected air temperature changes from 1900 to 2100.)


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