Global internet connectivity at risk from climate disasters
The flow of digital information through fiber-optic cables lining the sea floor could be compromised by climate change.
That’s according to new research published in the journal Earth-Science Reviews by scientists from the United Kingdom’s National Oceanography Centre and the University of Central Florida. They found that ocean and nearshore disturbances caused by extreme weather events have exposed “hot spots” along the transglobal cable network, increasing the risk of internet outages.
For example, the researchers wrote that intensifying tropical cyclones in the northern Pacific Ocean are stressing submarine cables off the coast of Taiwan, whose sovereignty is under threat as China claims territorial rights over the island.
“Our analysis clearly stresses the need to carefully plan cable routes and landing station locations factoring in a range of local hazards and how those are affected by climate change,” co-author Thomas Wahl, an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering, said in a release.
In hurricane and typhoon zones, severe storms “will not only attack the coast, but also influence the stability of the continental shelf seabed via the formation of eroding currents and waves,” the report said. Such action could expose cables to more abrasion or suspensions above the seabed, as well as trigger submarine landslides and greater turbidity.