How Unstable Weather is Affecting Rapa Nui

The impacts of climate change putting heritage at risk

By CyArk

Ahu Nau Nau in Front of the Anakena Beach in Rapa Nui (2019-01) by CyArkCyArk

Unlike many islands in the South Pacific, Rapa Nui has no reef to protect its coast. The island has always been vulnerable to big storms and tsunamis, now exacerbated with sea level rise. It has very light, mineral-poor soil which runs off into the ocean in heavy rain.

The Terrain of Rapa Nui (2019-01) by CyArkCyArk

Creating water supply issues

With no permanent streams or rivers, water provision remains a big issue.  

Ranu Raraku crater Rapa Nui by CyArkCyArk

A major impact of global climate change is an overall decrease in rainfall, observable in 2017 with the lowest recorded rainfall ever followed by another exceptionally dry year in 2018. The same year, the freshwater lake in the Rano Raraku crater dried up. 

Disrupting wildlife and traditions

As well as being a wildlife habitat, the lake was the focus of the traditional triathlon as part of the Tapati festival which can no longer take place at the lake.

Using LiDAR on the Coat of Hanga Tetenga in Rapa Nui (2019-01) by CyArkCyArk

Undermining the integrity of monuments

Increasing storminess and winds leave the light dry soils vulnerable to erosion, both by wind and by rainfall-driven runoff. This erosion further undermines the integrity of the archaeological monuments and deposits.

Moai on the Coast of Rapa Nui (2019-01) by CyArkCyArk

Effects to agriculture

This also limits the potential for growing foodstuffs.

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Discover how CyArk uses 3D documentation to empower local experts.

Find out more about ICOMOS' efforts to increase engagement of cultural heritage in climate action here.

Credits: Story

Professor Jane Downes, ICOMOS Working Group on Cultural Heritage and Climate Change, and Archaeology Institute Director, University of the Highlands and Islands UK.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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