Hawaii’s East Island was washed away by Hurricane Walaka that struck the area earlier this month.
An intense hurricane in Pacific Ocean has wiped almost an entire Hawaiian island off the map.
East Island, located about 550 miles northwest of Honolulu, was approximately 400 feet wide and a half mile long and was home to critically endangered Hawaiian monk seal and threatened Hawaiian green sea turtle. The tiny, remote Hawaiian island was swept by powerful Hurricane Walaka earlier this month. Researchers have confirmed the disappearance of the island after comparing satellite images from the US Fish and Wildlife Service before and after the hurricane.
Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii scientist, wasn't surprised a hurricane — made more intense due to #climatechange — had wiped out East Island in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, home to endangered seals and sea turtles. But he didn't expect it this soon. #hinews @noaa pic.twitter.com/ejcGuh0XMF— Nathan Eagle (@NathanEagle) October 22, 2018
“East Island appears to be under water.” Researchers said in a statement.
Dangerous Hurricane Walaka began southwest of the Hawaiian Islands in Sept. 29. On Oct. 3, the hurricane intensified as it moved toward North and caused devastating impact on most of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument in the Central Pacific Ocean. Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world and East Island was part of a small chain of islands in this region.
More than 90 percent of Hawaii’s green turtle population spends their breeding season on island chain, known as the French Frigate Shoals, for safe nesting. Of those, almost half nested at East Island.
“There’s no doubt that it was the most important single islet for sea turtle nesting.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) biologist Charles Littnan told Civic Beat, which first reported the island’s disappearance.
Researchers are concerned about how much the habitat loss will affect the species. They believe a collapse is imminent unless we take urgent, concerted action.
“Species are resilient up to a point,” said Littnan. “But there could be a point in the future where that resilience isn’t enough anymore.”
Researchers were studying Hawaii’s East Island before Hurricane Walaka struck it. They already knew that the island can disappear as climate change forces up sea levels.
Dr Chip Fletcher, an earth science professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa says. “The island was probably one to two thousand years old and we were only there in July, so for it to be lost right now is pretty bad luck.”