Hawaiian island erased by powerful hurricane: ‘The loss is a huge blow’

Researchers confirmed East Island in the French Frigate Shoals received significant damage as a result of Hurricane Walaka — a powerful Category 4 storm — roaring over the islands

A news release from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument confirmed "significant changes" to parts of the French Frigate Shoals in the wake of Walaka, which was a Category 4 hurricane with winds near 220 km/h when it swept across the chain on October 3.

Hawaii's East Island vanished overnight after being walloped by Hurricane Walaka.

Rising sea levels are also eroding away low-lying islands, with several fragments of land in the Pacific vanishing in recent years. French Frigate Shoals is a place where there is the 95 percent population of the Hawaiian green sea turtles and they are classified to be threatened under the scarce species act.

It's unclear what the damage to local wildlife on the island will be yet, but the signs aren't good.

Satellite images taken after the hurricane showed that it has nearly entirely vanished.

Dr. Chip Fletcher, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Civil Beat, which first reported the island's disappearance, that he was doing research on East Island in July. He said that he felt that there would be just one more shrink for this planet to end.

"About 96 per cent use the atoll and about half of them used this island", he said.

The island was uninhabited, but scientists are anxious because it was a refuge for two of the most endangered animals in the world: the Hawaiian green sea turtle and the Hawaiian monk seal.

If conditions align, an atoll would always be at a small risk of being erased by a powerful hurricane.

Just days after one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the Pacific, one remote Hawaiian archipelago was all but gone.

"I was absolutely shocked", Randy Kosaki, NOAA's deputy superintendent of research and field operations for the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument told the Washington Post.

The vanishing of more islands in the near future is possible - though scientists can not say climate change causes hurricanes, scientific evidence shows that storms are stronger and wetter because of climate change.

Charles Littnan, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's protected species division, explained to HuffPost that it could take years to understand what impact this loss will have on the species that called it home.



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