Published: Sat, October 27, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Powerful hurricane caused an entire island in Hawaii to disappear

Powerful hurricane caused an entire island in Hawaii to disappear

Although experts can not directly trace the shrinking of East Island to the effects of climate change, Clark said, it contributes to the strength and frequency of hurricanes like the one that overtook the island.

East Island was just over four hectares but was important ecologically.

Another of the French Frigate Shoal islets, Whale-Skate Island, eroded until it was completely submerged in the Nineties and has not returned.

The East Island eroded overnight during the powerful Hurricane Walaka that hit the region at the beginning of this month. The Category-3 hurricane created a storm surge that washed over the small slice of land measuring only 121 metres wide.

French Frigate Shoals is where 95 per cent of Hawaiian green sea turtles - classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act - nest.

Using research monitors, experts were able to track different satellite images to study the impacts of the hurricane.

Nearly 96 percent of Hawaii's green turtle population travels to the island chain, known as the French Frigate Shoals, for safe nesting during their breeding season, according to Chip Fletcher, an earth science professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

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East Island, the second-largest island of the French Frigate Shoals, approximately 800 kilometres north-west of Honolulu, is also a crucial pupping ground for endangered monk seals.

And according to Charles Littnan, a conservation biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, appropriately one-seventh of Hawaiian monk seals were born on the island.

"Sea level is rising around the world, these low sandy islands become more and more vulnerable as the ocean rises", he said.

Hurricane Walaka, one of the most intense Pacific storms ever, reached Category 5 in early October with maximum sustained winds of 160 miles per hour and an extremely strong storm surge. Traditionally, the reason for the "jitter" of the earth's axis was considered as the movement of glaciers, but by combining mathematical models of other global processes, which are theoretically able to reject the axis, the researchers found that the reason is not one - three: convection of the mantle matter, the planets, the movement of glaciers and the melting of the global cryosphere caused by climate change. It was used for breeding monk seals, which are under threat of extinction and rare today of a green turtle.

But it took a big hit when the storm struck.

"The take-home message is climate change is real and it's happening now", concluded Kosaki. But climate change is warming the ocean and atmosphere, leading to more powerful and frequent storms.

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