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Citizen scientists sought to document the impacts of rising water, King Tides and waves in West Maui

By Staff | May 23, 2019

LAHAINA – Volunteers are sought for a new crowd-sourced citizen science effort to capture the impacts of rising sea levels, King Tides and wave run-up, detail changes along the coastline and provide information to aid in the development of a new wave run-up forecast specifically for West Maui.

Learn more about it at “Rising Water, Tides & Waves, West Maui A Special Case” on Wednesday, May 29, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the West Maui Senior Center at 788 Pauoa St. along Lahainaluna Road.

Pizza and snacks will be provided (first-come, first- served) at 5 p.m., and the training session will start promptly at 5:30 p.m.

For more information, contact Tara Owens at taram@hawaii.edu or (808) 463-3868.

The workshop is a collaboration between the University of Hawaii Sea Grant Program and the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing Systems (PacIOOS).

It will be delivered by Owens, a coastal geologist and extension faculty member for Hawaii Sea Grant. In this role, she serves as a technical liaison to the County of Maui addressing issues in coastal management.

Colleagues Maya Walton and Katy Hintzen of Hawaii Sea Grant, and Fiona Langenberger and Martin Guiles of PacIOOS, will also participate in Wednesday’s workshop.

According to the researchers, all of Maui and other areas throughout the State of Hawaii are already experiencing the impacts of sea level rise, high tides and waves, and coastal erosion.

The West Maui region is uniquely exposed to wave exposure from both north and south – winter and summer – waves.

“Also, lost or narrowing beaches in the region are often no longer providing adequate natural buffering from high sea levels and waves. This is leading to conditions that threaten infrastructure and development,” Owens explained.

“We are already observing and responding to impacts. The conditions and impacts that are observed today will expand and increase in frequency as time goes on. There are concerns about a variety of outcomes, such as impacts to development, responses that exacerbate the problem, loss of beaches, reduced shoreline access and loss of cultural uses or sites.”

By observing and documenting impacts in West Maui, citizen scientists can help identify vulnerable sites and prepare in advance for any short- or long-term responses.

Sea Grant and PacIOOS are also using photographic observations from the citizen science network to fine-tune a new high-resolution wave run-up model specifically for West Maui.

“With this model, we will be able to provide a real-time forecast of wave run-up for the region. We will also build scenarios of future conditions that factor in additional sea level rise,” Owens noted.

The workshop will involve participants in two projects: the Hawaii and Pacific Islands King Tides Project, and a West Maui-specific project to develop a wave run-up forecast.

Participants will be shown examples of the types of observations that are useful, as well as how to use a new web platform (phone app) to easily collect photographs and associated information for the statewide database of over 2,000 photos.

The public can visit the King Tides website at www.pacificislandskingtides.org for more information and to see photos submitted during previous high-water level events.

“We often say, ‘Snap the shoreline, see the future.’ The photographs for both projects will be included in our statewide database and used to identify vulnerable areas to aid in planning for the future,” Owens explained.

The wave run-up forecast is needed for West Maui, because the region has a very complex exposure to waves and a limited sand supply on the beaches.

According to the scientists, the impacts of high tides, waves and erosion are already severe at some sites.

The wave run-up forecast will provide new high-resolution, site-specific information about potential impacts before an event and for future scenarios.