On August 25, 2013, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the Gilbert Islands. This jewel-like string of islands in the Central Pacific Ocean is made up of 16 coral islands and atolls, lying about 2,800 miles (4,500 km) northeast of Australia. The Gilbert Islands are part of the Republic of Kiribati.
The islands are very low-lying, rising on average about 3-4 meters (9.8 – 13 feet) above sea level. The major exports area copra (coconut kernels, usually used for oil) and fish. Most of the people, however rely on a subsistence style of living, and are dependent on fishing and the harvest of tree crops.
According to the Australian Government’s Pacific Climate Change Science Program, the sea-level rise near Kiribati measured by satellite altimeters since 1993 ranges from 1-4 mm per year. That would mean, over the last 20 years, sea level has risen 20 mm to 80 mm (about 0.8 to 3 in.). For such low-lying land, the steady encroachment, which is predicted to increase in a warming climate, is of concern to residents.