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Changing Climate in Hawaii Affects the Coasts

December 1, 2013
climate change on coasts

Original artwork by R. Mason

Due to rising temperatures, the planet’s ice has dramatically melted. When amplified by the thermal expansion of water, it results in global sea level rise. Not all islands will experience the same rate of sea level change. For example, the Kona Coast is experiencing a sea level rise of about 1.5 inches per decade. This trend is gaining speed. The regional sea level is predicted to rise 7-23 inches by 2100.

Rising ocean water encroaches on freshwater aquifers. Saltwater intrusion affects coastal habitats such as anchialine pools. Many plants and animals depend on a delicate balance in these pools. As the sea level rises some of the pools will become too salty, and others will disappear completely.

At the same time, a decline in the health of coral reefs due to climate change could expose shorelines to more waves and storms. This significantly increases vulnerability for nearshore estuaries, beaches, coastal vegetation, and anchialine pools. Beach erosion is already a serious and expensive issue in Hawaii.

This Week’s  MYTH  Buster: “How can we have harsh winters and global warming at the same time?”

While we may use the terms “climate” and “weather” interchangeably, they are two very different things. “Weather” describes day-to-day conditions; “Climate” is the average of these weather conditions over long periods of time.

I Will Make a Difference: by reducing, reusing, and recycling. Producing new materials requires tremendous energy.

For more on the National Park Service and climate change:

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