An intense hurricane in the Pacific has wiped out almost an entire Hawaiian island from the map.
East Island, located about 550 miles northwest of Honolulu, was about 400 feet wide and half a mile long and was home to the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and endangered Hawaiian green sea turtle. The tiny, secluded Hawaiian island was swept by the mighty Hurricane Walaka earlier this month. Researchers have confirmed the disappearance of the island after comparing satellite images of the US Fish and Wildlife Service before and after the hurricane.
Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii scientist, was not surprised by a hurricane that had wiped out due to #climatechange ̵1; East Island in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, home to endangered seals and sea turtles. But he did not expect it that fast. #ginews @noaa pic.twitter.com/ejcGuh0XMF – Nathan Eagle (@NathanEagle) October 22, 2018
"East Iceland seems to be under water."
Dangerous hurricane Walaka began on September 29 in the southwestern part of the Hawaiian Islands. On October 3, the hurricane intensified as it moved north, wreaking havoc on the Marine National Monument in Papahanaumokuakea's Central Pacific Ocean. The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the largest marine reserves in the world, and East Iceland was part of a small chain of islands in the region.
More than 90 percent of the Hawaiian green turtle population spend their breeding season on the island chain. known as the French frigate Shoals, for safe nesting. Almost half of them nested on East Island.
"There is no doubt that it was the single most important island for nesting sea turtles," said biologist Charles Littnan of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told Civic Beat's disappearance of the island.
Researchers are concerned about how much habitat loss will affect the species. They believe that a collapse is imminent unless we take urgent, concerted action.
"Species are resilient to a degree," Littnan said. "But there could be a point in the future where this resilience is no longer sufficient."
Researchers studied Hawaii's eastern island before hurricane Walaka hit them. They already knew that the island can disappear as climate change raises sea levels.
Dr. Chip Fletcher, Professor of Earth Sciences at the University of Hawaii in Manoa, says. "The island was probably one to two thousand years old and we were only there in July, so it's pretty much lost now because it's lost."