East Island, an 11-acre island off the coast of Hawaii in the French Frigate Shoals, has been erased by hurricane Walaka.
Hurricane Walaka, one of the most powerful Pacific storms ever recorded, has erased East Island, which is part of French Frigate Shoals in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. https://t.co/x9moCB1WA5 @NathanEagle #HIwx #Hawaii pic.twitter.com/BckfalPR90
— Honolulu Civil Beat (@CivilBeat) October 23, 2018
The former half-mile island once supported an endangered habitat for monk seals and green sea turtles but is now considered to be nonexistent to the scientists who studied satellite images before and after the category 3 hurricane hit the protected Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument earlier this month.
“There’s no doubt it was the most important single islet for sea turtle nesting,” NOAA conservation biologist Charles Littnan said.
The over 1,000-year old island was recently being studied by the University of Hawaii when the seven researchers on the Frigate Shoals were ordered to evacuate before the storm.
“I uttered a swear word. I had a ‘holy cow!’ moment, somewhat in disbelief that it had disappeared,” University of Hawaii professor Chip Fletcher said. “These small, sandy islets are going to really struggle to persist…this event is confronting us with what the future could look like.”
East Island isn’t the only that has been affected by rising sea levels and tremendous weather. Five tropical islands known as the Solomon Islands were submerged over the last decade due to rising sea levels from warmer ocean temperatures.
Randy Kosaki, from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told Honolulu Civil Beat, “The take-home message is climate change is real and it’s happening now.”
Scientists will know more about the populations of sustainable wildlife and plant-life in the area as they continue to monitor the area in the upcoming months.