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Citizen scientists can help the state gather data

By Staff | Jun 1, 2017

Last week, county and state officials were concerned about the potential for coastal flooding and damage due to the combination of “king tides” – the highest tides of the year – and an incoming south swell.

While these tidal events are expected again around June 23 and July 21, the Hawaii Sea Grant Center for Coastal and Climate Science and Resilience, and Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System together at the University of Hawaii have been tracking unusual high tide levels for some time now.

These researchers advise that the state will likely continue to experience unusually high tide levels throughout the summer.

Factors that can further elevate king tides include ocean eddies with high centers moving through the islands, global sea-level rise due to climate change and, like last weekend, summer swells.

The Hawaii Sea Grant Center for Coastal and Climate Science and Resilience is asking island residents to help document high water levels and related impacts through the Hawaii and Pacific Islands King Tides “Citizen Science” project by submitting photos online through the program’s smartphone app or website.

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is concerned with possible impacts of the higher sea levels, such as localized coastal erosion problems; high-wave run-up and overwash – a common occurance on Honoapiilani Highway; and temporary nuisance flooding in low-lying areas and storm drains.

Marine biologist Skippy Hau of the Maui Division of Aquatic Resources is worried about turtles this summer.

“The nesting season will begin in June, and at that time biologists and volunteers will be monitoring the beaches for any signs of turtle nesting. Timing is critical – high tides could threaten nestlings as they emerge from the nest.”

For information and tide prediction charts, go to ccsr.seagrant.soest.hawaii.edu/king-tides.

Community projects by West Maui Kumuwai, Surfrider Foundation’s Blue Water Task Force, Malama Maui Nui and many others show what can happen when Maui residents and companies take an active interest in protecting our fragile environment.

County and state environmental protection resources are thin. Officials need residents to serve as eyes and ears for them on Maui and in communities around the state.