NOAA Seed Money Leads to Hawaii Tool—and Groundbreaking Adaptation Policies

Hawaii is incorporating sea-level rise science into state planning processes—and a tool supported by NOAA plays an important role.

Hawaii's new legislation pledges a carbon-neutral state by 2045 and requires that a sea level rise analysis be included in environmental impact statements for state development projects. This legislation was informed by the Hawai`i Sea Level Rise Viewer, which NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management supported through a 2016 Regional Coastal Resilience Grant. Tool users can “see” which areas will experience impacts in any given scenario. Display options reveal an area’s exposure to coastal erosion, high-wave flooding, or flooding influenced by high tides. The tool also sheds light on economic-losses and highway flooding associated with each scenario.

The viewer was delivered in December 2017, along with a separate, comprehensive sea level rise report commissioned by the state legislature. Together, the tool and report lay out an urgent case for adaptation action.

If comprehensive measures are not taken, a realistic sea level rise projection of 3.2 feet by mid-to-late century is expected to bring severe impacts. These include approximately $19 billion in loss of lands and structures; 19,800 people displaced; and flooding of 6,500 structures, 550 cultural sites, and 38 miles of major roads. The cost to fortify, rebuild, or relocate critical infrastructure was not covered in the report and would cost many billions more.

The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources provided additional funding for tool development. Data and technical support partners included the State of Hawai`i Office of Planning; Tetra Tech, Inc.; and the University of Hawai`i’s Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and Sea Grant College Program.

More Information: Hawai`I Sea Level Rise Viewer

Partners: Hawai`i Office of Planning and Department of Land and Natural Resources, Tetra Tech, and the University of Hawai`i’s Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, and Sea Grant College Program

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