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Study: Islands Are Drying Out Due to Climate Change

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Many islands must prepare for a dryer future

Island nations around the globe are no stranger to climate change, as concerns of global sea level rise are all too real. Now, these islands may have another worry to add to the list: dwindling drinking water.

Research from the University of Colorado Boulder used a new way of modeling the effects of climate change on islands. This new modeling revealed that previous studies estimating that 50 percent of islands would become increasingly dry by the middle of the century may have drastically underestimated the impact.

The University of Colorado Boulder study estimated that up to 73 percent of islands in the world could be impacted by substantially more arid conditions by the middle of the century.

Up to 18 million affected

The updated percentage of affected islands equates to about 18 million people, the study noted.

Previous studies, the researchers said, looked at estimated rainfall on islands but didn't properly account for increased evaporation that is tied to climate change. This miscalculation is likely the cause of previous, lower estimates from other studies.

"Islands are already dealing with sea level rise. But this shows that any rainwater they have is also vulnerable. The atmosphere is getting thirstier, and would like more of that freshwater back." -- Kris Karnauskas, professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Palau running out of water

Researchers published the results of this study just as the Pacific island nation of Palau warned that it is running out of water. The archipelago, which has a year-round population of at least 18,000 and an economy largely supported by tourism, has been battling sever drought. The group of islands has received just 27 percent of normal rainfall so far in 2016 and is currently seeking global aid for its growing problem.

Matt Mills Matt Mills has been involved in various aspects of online media, both on the editorial side and on the technology side, for more than 16 years. He holds a Master's Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism, and is currently involved in multiple projects focused on innovation journalism.