Hawaiian island ‘vanishes in storm’ amid rising sea levels

Hawaiian island ‘vanishes in storm’ amid rising sea levels

The island, Science Alert explained, was essentially wiped off the map following the storm surge that came with Hurricane Walaka, which was one of the most intense Pacific hurricanes on record.

"I uttered a swear word".

"According to recent satellite images, there have been significant changes to French Frigate Shoals", Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument said in a statement. The 1,350-mile string of coral islands, seamounts and shoals feature a riot of life, including coral, fish, birds and mammals, many unique to Hawaii.

Charles Littnan, a conservation biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said about one-seventh of the world's endangered Hawaiian monk seals were born in French Frigate Shoals, half on East Island.

The loss of East Island, the second biggest islet of the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, to the ocean has had a devastating impact on Hawaiian sea turtles and monk seals.

The island played an important role for wildlife, including the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal, a species that numbers just 1,400 individuals.

New satellite images released this week showed that East Island, a remote 11-acre stretch of sand that was officially part of the French Frigate Shoals in Hawaii, has disappeared.

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

In its wake, however, it seems to have caused an island to disappear.

"I had a 'holy cow!' moment, somewhat in disbelief that it had disappeared", University of Hawaii professor Chip Fletcher said.

"As we moved around the island this past July, every single step we had to be careful, because there was evidence of turtle nesting", Fletcher told CNN. Fletcher said that they wanted to monitor the island and are disappointed that it is gone; however, they have learned that the islands are more at risk than previously thought.

"Sea levels are rising right now so the fundamental basis for forming these islands no longer exists".

East Island's disappearance highlights the fragility of small islands like this in the face of mounting climate change.

Randy Kosaki, the monument's deputy superintendent for research and field operations for NOAA, told Honolulu CB: "The take home message is climate change is real and it's happening now".

"Monument co-managers are working to better understand the implications for cultural resources and wildlife, protected species and their habitat within the Monument", the statement added.

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