New Wave Flooding Tool Provides Future Scenarios for West Maui

Screenshot of "West Maui Wave-Driven Flooding With Sea Level Rise" tool.

New Wave Flooding Tool Provides Future Scenarios for West Maui

A new interactive mapping tool created by researchers at the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) provides West Maui community members, property owners, businesses, as well as state and county officials with predictions of coastal flooding under various scenarios of sea level and a range of wave events.

The combination of high sea levels and large swells can result in significant coastal erosion, damage to infrastructure and properties, and land-based sedimentation that impairs coastal water quality. Hawaiʻi has experienced an increase in wave plus tide-driven flooding in recent years, and these events are expected to grow in numbers and duration due to sea level rise and changing wave energies.

“Along with other planning tools, we hope these scenarios that are tailored for West Maui will be useful to inform land use planning,” said Tara Owens, co-investigator on the grant that funded this work and extension specialist with the University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program.

Wave run-up at Keonenui Bay, West Maui on January 10, 2021. Credit: Don McLeish.

Keonenui Bay. Credit: Don McLeish.

The water level—and the associated risk of coastal flooding—in West Maui is impacted by several factors that are included in the flooding product: daily tidal cycles, long-term sea level rise, moderate to large wave events, and the slowly-oscillating ocean sea level height around Maui (caused in part by El Niño). PacIOOS, based at the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), created the new West Maui Wave-Driven Flooding With Sea Level Rise tool by adopting a next-generation modeling approach to combine these factors and augment the annual high wave flooding model represented in the State of Hawaiʻi Sea Level Rise Viewer.

In addition to chronic coastal erosion leading to severe damage of properties, wave overtopping and flooding also pose a major safety concern to infrastructure, in particular to Honoapiʻilani Highway, the only access point to West Maui.

“Coastal managers and planners in Hawaiʻi rely on science-based information that can support decision making,” said County of Maui Coastal Planner, Jim Buika. “This scenario-based tool is powerful because it is locally specific and easy to use. It can guide us to promote sustainable land use and environmental protection.”

Kahana Sunset wave action at seawall. Credit: Carol Tu'ua.

Kahana Sunset wave action at seawall. Credit: Carol Tuʻua.

The Wave Flooding Tool and a related forecast of coastal flooding for the upcoming six days in West Maui were developed by PacIOOS through a collaborative effort led by the Coastal Hazards Group in the Department of Oceanography at UH Mānoa, and funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant “Enhanced Community Resilience With Real-Time Notifications of Hazardous Wave-Driven Flooding and Erosion Events” (award #NA17NOS4730143).

Public introduction to the West Maui Flooding Tool

The public is invited to join us on Tuesday, August 30, 2022 from 4:00-5:00 pm to learn about this new Tool. Please register here to receive log-in information.

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Did you know?

PacIOOS is the first regional association that was certified as a Regional Information Coordination Entity (RICE) by the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS). Certification provides NOAA and its interagency partners a means to verify that a regional association’s organizational and operational practices, including data management, meet recognized and established standards set by NOAA.