For most Americans—at least those not in Miami—rising sea levels are a far-off, theoretical danger that scientists keep warning us about. But the threat feels a little more real in the Solomon Islands—now that five of them are under water.
According to a new study by Australian researchers, the Pacific Ocean has completely subsumed five of the Solomon Islands, an archipelago near Papua New Guinea.
“Using time series aerial and satellite imagery from 1947 to 2014 of 33 islands… we have identified five vegetated reef islands that have vanished,” the researchers wrote.
The islands were small—none larger than 13 acres—and all unpopulated. The study attributes their disappearance to a combination of sea level rise and exposure to high-energy waves.
In other words, the researchers don’t blame climate change alone—but that doesn’t mean they’re not concerned for the future.
“These observations from the Solomons are a warning of things to come irrespective of if climate change alone caused it or a range of factors,” one of the study’s authors, Dr. Simon Albert, told The Guardian.