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Climate Change Research at UH Hilo: Monitoring the Coasts for Signs of Erosion

Climate change is affecting more than just plants and animals—it is changing coasts and sea levels. Researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo are monitoring these changes and the impact on local communities by gathering data that will help officials make sound predictions about, and decisions for, the future.

Graduate student and researcher Rose Hart holds an unmanned aerial vehicle used to survey coastal areas.

Rose Hart, a first-year graduate student in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program at UH Hilo, has teamed up with faculty member Ryan Perroy, an assistant professor of geography and environmental science at UH Hilo, to begin monitoring shorelines using an exciting and innovative technique.

The researchers are using small unmanned aerial vehicles to capture images of coastal areas across hundreds of acres. The images are used to create 3D data sets to observe past and present changes. A variety of coastal environments are being used for the study including sea cliffs (honoliʻi), low-lying and subsiding coastal lava fields (kapoho) and calcareous beaches (hapuna).

The project has a number of aspects and goals—one is to determine from a historical point of view how these coasts and regions have changed over time to present day. Another aspect is more short term, meaning that data collection occurs every couple of months to every few weeks to see how the coasts are currently changing.

The overall goal is to try to make accurate predictions on how the rise in sea level will affect the coast and what that entails for communities and the county in regard to planning. For example, setback regulations from the coastline may need to be adjusted. How the community will respond to the rising sea level is an important factor to consider especially in the long-term sense things will be dramatically different in the next 50 to 100 years.

For more on Hart and Perroy and their research, read the full article at UH Hilo Stories.

Second Informational Meeting on Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Hawai’i

The Department of Land and Natural Resources will hold an informational meeting on sea level rise vulnerability and adaptation on Kaua‘i, Monday, January 09, 2017.  This meeting is one of a series of public informational meetings being held state wide in an effort to educate people about the impacts of sea level rise and to gather comments and input about key issues and concerns regarding preparedness and adaptation.  The first meeting was held on Oahu last June.

Climate change has the potential to profoundly impact our wellbeing and way of life.  In particular, rising sea levels will increase the occurrence and severity of coastal erosion and flooding, threatening natural resources and economic sectors concentrated along low-lying shores.  “We are in the process of developing a Sea Level Rise Vulnerability & Adaptation Report (SLR Report) that is to be submitted in anticipation of the 2018, Hawaii State Legislature and we are interested in soliciting input from our island communities to help us complete the report,” said DLNR Chair Suzanne Case.  “This SLR Report is the first state-wide assessment of the impacts of sea level rise on our coastal areas.  Using the best available scientific knowledge, the SLR Report will help us prepare for future sea level rise and present recommendations to reduce our exposure to SLR hazards such as erosion and extreme flooding”, said Sam Lemmo, Co-Chair of the Interagency Climate Adaptation Committee”.

The Kaua‘i meeting will be held from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Līhu‘e Civic Center, Moikeha Building, Meeting Room 2A-2B located at 4444 Rice Street in Līhu‘e.  Anyone with special needs requiring accommodations or assistance please contact the Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands (OCCL) at least four days prior to the public hearing. For additional information contact OCCL at (808) 587-0377 or visit http://climateadaptation.hawaii.gov/.