The Department Of Marine & Wildlife Resources

The Department Of Marine & Wildlife Resources

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sea Level Rise In American Samoa

American Samoa has a tropical climate moderated by southeast trade winds. There is minimal variation in seasonal temperature. American Samoa has a rainy season from November to April and a dry season from May to October. Typhoons are common from December to March, and it is predicted that these will increase as a result of climate change. Climate Change, specifically sea-level rise, directly impacts American Samoa by increasing flooding or drought conditions. There are limited natural freshwater resources in American Samoa and these may be adversely affected by a rise in the level of saltwater penetration under the island caused by sea level rise.

 Sea level rise in Nu’uuli, perhaps the most significant negative effect higher global temperatures is the rise in sea levels resulting from the thermal expansion (warming causes seawater to expand) of the oceans and melting of ice-caps. It is projected that sea levels will rise by as much as 5 mm per year over the next 100 years as a result of global warming. Utilizing the coarse data currently available to the territory, the American Samoa Coastal Zone Management division developed projection of the areas of Tutuila that may be impacted by a meter rise in sea level. Across the island critical sections of primary roads as well as private and public structures may be affected. The village of Nu’uuli and the airport, in particular, are expected to be heavily impacted. Large portions of the airport runway and most of Coconut Point may become inundated by seawater. Sea level rise, combined with erosion of the coast and reef, could seriously disrupt transportation to and around the islands, and reduce public access to critical services such as the hospital. 

Photo Courtesy: Alice Lawrence

Climate change will impact coral reefs and coastal communities through the effects of sea level rise, changes in storm and rainfall frequency and intensity, increased sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification. Models and vulnerability assessments can prepare communities for potential impacts through planning for climate resiliency. A climate resilient community is better prepared to effectively protect people, society, culture and resources from a changing climate.

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