Is Hawaii prepared for the impacts of climate change?

Aug 21, 2014 by Cindy Knapman
Is Hawaii prepared for the impacts of climate change?
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The Hawaiian Islands represent a wide diversity of ecosystems and environments, including areas of breathtaking natural beauty as well as densely populated coastal cities. These unique environments are already changing under the influence of climate change from the effects of increasing temperatures, decreasing rainfall, rising seas, coastal erosion, land use and development changes, and increasing demands on our natural resources. What can we expect in the future, and how can we best prepare?

A new report, titled Climate Change Impacts in Hawai'i: A summary of climate change and its impacts to Hawai'i's ecosystems and communities, produced by the University of Hawai'i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) with funding from the Hawai'i Tourism Authority (HTA), helps with answers. It addresses such basic questions as, "What does climate change look like?" and "What is the current state of scientific knowledge regarding climate change globally, and how does it relate to Hawai'i specifically?"

By addressing these fundamental questions, UH Sea Grant and HTA are striving to improve the general understanding of climate change and its associated impacts, which in turn will help communities be better prepared to undertake climate adaptation and mitigation efforts.

Dolan Eversole, coordinator of the NOAA Sea Grant Coastal Storms Program for the Pacific Islands Region and lead author of the report, noted, "While there is a large amount of science on available, sorting through and interpreting this often very technical and sometimes disparate information can be confusing and time-consuming. We produced a series of reports that we hope will make this information widely accessible and easy to understand, and in turn will help all of us anticipate and prepare for the changes that we are beginning to see in the islands."

"The HTA partnered with the University of Hawai'i to fund the study," said HTA President and CEO Mike McCartney. "HTA is a knowledge-based organization and we believe it's important to be informed about Hawai'i's environment as it relates to tourism. We will use this study to help guide us in how we address our environmental initiatives."

Explore further: National survey reveals coastal concerns over climate change

More information: The report is part of a series that also includes "Climate Change and the Visitor Industry: People, Place, Culture, and the Hawai'i Experience;" and "HTA Stakeholder Outreach Workshop: Summaries and Risk Perception Analysis." Digital versions of all three reports are available at seagrant.soest.hawaii.edu/publications

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Steve Case
1 / 5 (1) Aug 29, 2014
Cindy Knapman doesn't provide any numbers or specific informational sources. A good source for sea level data is the Permanent Service for Mean Sea Level (PSMSL) and Colorado University's Sea Level Research Group. These are easily Googled.

The PSMSL has world-wide tide gage data, and for Hawaii and some of the nearby atolls. The numbers are interesting.

There are 9 tide gauges in the area, and 7 have data in excess of 30 years. The All time average rate of sea level rise for those 7 gauges is 1.59 mm/yr. Over the last 30 years, that average is 1.35 mm/yr. Most of that change is from the Hilo station on the Big Island although 2 other stations showed a decline these past 30 years.

By 2100 those rates will produce around five inches of sea level rise.

Globally The University of Colorado's Sea Level Research Group agrees with the slight drop in the rate shown by the tide gauges. Records from satellite data have been kept there since the early '90's, and from 1992 to 2003 the ra