The storm surge from Cyclone Pam caused significant damage in Tuvalu earlier this year. I came across a story on the Japanese language website of Tuvalu Overview about Cyclone Pam causing the loss of Vasafua Islet. I hadn’t seen this news in English, so below is a translation of “Vasafua Islet vanishes“, written by Shuuichi Endou, the founder of Tuvalu Overview. (Photos and translation both with permission.)
バサフア島、消失・・・ Vasafua Islet vanishes
28 March 2015
The beautiful islet I have introduced many times in my lectures, Vasafua, has disappeared. The above photo shows the storm surge from Cyclone Pam. It’s a photo taken at Vaitupu Atoll. The effect of this type of storm surge and strong winds has caused the loss of a number of small islets.
This is a photo taken in February 2004.
This photo was taken in January 2014. In 10 years, the size has reduced by as much as half.
Then, Vasafua Islet on 27 March 2015 has become just a sandbar. In this photo, there are several sea birds on the sand. Maybe they’re birds which used to have their nests in Vasafua’s palm trees. Together with the palm trees, maybe any eggs or chicks have been washed away.
Due to global warming, the ocean’s temperature is rising and the volume of water in the ocean is increasing, resulting in the ocean’s surface area increasing. The effect of that is the islands of Tuvalu, little by little, becoming smaller. And, as this time, with cyclones and hurricanes magnified by the effect of climate change, islets disappear into the sea.
In an interview with the Asahi Newspaper after COP15 [in Copenhagen] in 2009, Professor Patrick Nunn from the University of the South Pacific replied that in 10 to 15 years, whole coral reef nations such as Kiribati and Tuvalu will no longer be suitable for habitation. As a reason for this, he cited the influence of sea level rise from hurricanes and cyclones caused by climate change. If the damage from strong winds and the storm surge that Cyclone Pam brought this time becomes frequent, it may be necessary to choose to abandon islands, before they sink.
Vasafua Islet is located in the Funafuti Conservation Area, on the western side of Funafuti Atoll.