Published: Sat, October 27, 2018
Science | By

Hawaiian Island erased by one of 2018's many Cat 5 storms

Hawaiian Island erased by one of 2018's many Cat 5 storms

Photos of East Island taken in May before the hurricane show the pristine 4.5-hectare sand and gravel spit.

Fletcher and his colleagues were researching East Island via drone devices and sand and coral samples.

Clark, the NOAA superintendent for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, which includes the French Frigate Shoals, said no one immediately realized the island had largely disappeared because it is so remote.

East Island, located in the Pacific Ocean, has largely disappeared after being struck by Hurricane Walaka in early October.

"It's a really powerful example of the power and potential of nature that overnight an island was washed away", Littnan said.

A statement by the federal managers of the monument said that East Island "appears to be under water", while the neighboring Tern island had its shape altered by the hurricane.


The extent of the ecological damage and whether the island will ever return is still unknown, but about a seventh of the entire population of Hawaiian monk seals-one of the most endangered marine mammals-was born on East Island, and more than half of all Hawaiian green sea turtles-which are classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act-had nested on it. This information was confirmed and environmentalists, providing the first images of the new terrain.

Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii climate scientist, told the Honolulu Civil Beat this week he was stunned at the news. It was used for breeding monk seals, which are under threat of extinction and rare today of a green turtle. 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.

East Island, which is part of French Frigate Shoals in Hawaii's Northwestern islands, pictured in May 2018.

If conditions align, an atoll would always be at a small risk of being erased by a powerful hurricane.

Scientists say the storm's massive surge, as well as rising sea levels resulting from climate change, factored into the island's disappearance.

Charles Littnan, the director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's protected species division, said that it'll probably take several years to determine the impact of the island's disappearance on these species' future.

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