Projects : Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative



The Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative (SSC) is one of five areas across the country that make up NOAA’s Sentinel Site Program. This program brings together a network of people from across different levels of government, community involvement, NGOs and other stakeholders, expertise, and existing NOAA tools and services within specific geographic regions to tackle problems faced by coastal communities. The initial focus areas for the Hawaiian Islands SSC are to restore damaged wetlands by monitoring rainfall, stream flow, and salt water intrusion; balance human needs with ecosystem health; and find solutions to local problems related to coastal inundation and sea level change. If you have questions or comments about the resources and information contained on these pages, or would like to participate in the Cooperative please contact Doug Harper at




The Hawaiian Islands Sentinel Site Cooperative is a compilation of sites that includes Midway and French Frigate Shoals in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI), the Heʻeia ahupuaʻa (Heʻeia) on the island of O‘ahu on the island of Oʻahu, and a portion of the West Coast of the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. The Cooperative contains some of the most productive and unique ecological sites in U.S. waters and is widely recognized as one of the most valuable ecological locations in the world, which is why Midway and French Frigate Shoals were included in the World Heritage Site designation of the NWHI.

While separated by great distance, the sites are connected through circulation patterns, species migration, geological origin, and geographic isolation. Midway and French Frigate Shoals have experienced little human impact and remain relatively pristine while Heʻera and the Kona Coast are more heavily populated and impacted. This human impact gradient provides a unique opportunity to assess how ecosystem health will be impacted for both pristine and heavily stressed ecosystems, thus making it possible to extrapolate out the influence of climate change. Geographic separation makes it imperative to have strong, well-established partnerships. Long-standing relationships are being called upon to lead this Cooperative and include NOAA’s National Ocean Service in Midway and French Frigate Shoals, the National Marine Fisheries Service on the Big Island, and the local non-profit Kākoʻo ʻŌiwi in Heʻeia. As issues of focus change and the Cooperative matures, partnerships will be expanded.

The strength of the Cooperative stems from each site having direct management responsibility as well as observation data recorded from several years to several decades. The reefs are some of the best studied in the world resulting in a strong baseline set of data and recent studies on connectivity and evolutionary time have increased our understanding of reef function and processes. The necessary infrastructure for accurate observations of climate change, including sea level and inundation, is in place and has been actively monitored and utilized for management decisions since installation. Because of the robust understanding of the reefs, sea level, and inundation frequencies and magnitudes, small changes will be more noticeable and more easily identified and understood.


Midway and French Frigate Shoals in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI)

Midway and French Frigate Shoals are low lying atolls with minimal human development and populations. They support large populations of sea birds and are critical for numerous marine species, such as Hawaiian monk seals and sea turtles. Both atolls were included in the World Heritage Site designation of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands and are part of the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. The area is described by UNESCO as having the highest level of endemism of species in any marine ecosystem, having “an exceptional biomass accumulation”, and the sites’ rare combination of isolation and reef/pelagic ecosystems has created a high level of speciation and biodiversity.

PacIOOS Voyager Northwestern Hawaiian Islands

EEZ: Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Heʻeia ahupuaʻa (Heʻeia) on the island of Oʻahu

Heʻeia, on the island of Oʻahu, has a population of approximately 5,000 people and covers most of the traditional ahupuaʻa, a sub-divided tract of land closely aligned with the area’s watershed. The sentinel site is hemmed landward by the rim of an extinct volcano, which rises up to 3,100 feet, and quickly descends into coastal plains and Kāneʻohe Bay. The Bay is home to numerous animal species, coral reefs, and includes the largest remaining traditional fishpond in Oʻahu. It also has several estuaries and coastal wetlands.

PacIOOS Voyager Heeia Ahupuaa

A portion of the west coast on the Island of Hawaiʻi (the Big Island)

This Hawaiian Island Sentinel Site is a high island consisting of lava fields, small sand beaches, anchialine ponds, and lowland dry forests. Just off the coast are diverse reef and pelagic ecosystems, and includes the Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and a National Marine Fisheries Service’s Integrated Ecosystem Assessment.

PacIOOS Voyager Island of Hawaii

BRFA: Bottomfish Restricted Fishing Areas; FMA: Fisheries Management Areas; Sanctuary: Humpback Whale Sanctuary.


Resource Office Responsible Location Details
Observational Data
Precipitation Gages National Weather Service Heʻeia 3 gages in the region: AHUH1, WPPH1, and PHNG.
Precipitation Gages National Weather Service Kona Coast 3 gages in the region: KASH1, PULH1, and PWWH1.
USGS Stream Gages USGS Heʻeia 2 gages in the region: 16275000 and 16284200.
NOAA Tide Gages NOAA NOS CO-OPS Heʻeia Station ID: 1612480
NOAA Tide Gages NOAA NOS CO-OPS Kona Coast Station ID: 1617433
IfSAR Data NOAA CSC Heʻeia, Kona Coast Topography, 5 m point spacing, DSM, DTM,2005, Geospatial Coordinator, NOAA Pacific Services Center (808-532-3200)
LiDAR FEMA Kona Coast Topography, .9m point spacing, DEM,LAS, TIN FEMA Region IX; Phone (877) 336-2627; Email
LiDAR DBEDT Kona Coast Topography, 2m point spacing, DEM available, 2006, Hawaii State GIS Program Manager: Phone (808) 587-2846
Tide Gage NOAA NOS CO-OPS Midway Station ID: 1619910
Tide Gage University of Hawaiʻi FFS FFS
Wave Buoy PacIOOS Heʻeia Station 51202: Mokapu Point, HI
Station 51207: Kāneʻohe Bay, HI
CREWS Buoys – SST, wind NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center PIFSC
Water Quality Sampling Site State of Hawaiʻi Clean Water Branch (CWB) Heʻeia ID # 362, more sites are in the region the full list is here.
Water Quality Sampling Site State of Hawaiʻi Clean Water Branch (CWB) Kona Coast ID # 1236 more sites are in the region the full list is here.
Tools and Visualizations
PacIOOS Voyager PacIOOS ALL Sites Voyager
SLR Viewer NOAA CSC Oʻahu and Big Island SLR Viewer
Tide Forecast PacIOOS Oʻahu and Big Island Oʻahu and Big Island
Surf Forecast PacIOOS Oʻahu and Big Island Oʻahu and Big Island
Ocean Model Forecast PacIOOS Oʻahu and Big Island Ocean Model Forecast
Interagency Elevation Inventory NOAA CSC ALL Sites Interagency Elevation Inventory
National Flood Insurance Program Flood Hazard Assessment Tool FEMA/DLNR Heʻeia and Kona Coast Flood Hazard Assessment Tool
Ecosystem Related Studies and Information
Kona Integrated Ecosystem Assessment NOAA Kona Ecosystem-based project in West Hawaiʻi region. Kona IEA
Assessments (socioeconomic, needs, etc.) and Plans

PacIOOS Voyager map

DART: Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami; EEZ: Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); IOC: UNESCO Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission; NDBC: NOAA National Data Buoy Center; NOS: NOAA National Ocean Service; ROMS: Regional Ocean Modeling System.


Other Agencies and Organizations

State of Hawaiʻi

Multi-Organizational Bodies


Projects and Needs

Resource Location Contact Agency Comments
Elevation Leveling Oʻahu Hawaiʻi DOT Conducted by State, expected completion: 2014
GPS Elevation Data Big Island National Geodetic Survey Connected with Anchialine Pool work
Probabilistic estimates for extreme events Hawaiʻi NOAA Climate Service Will support decision-making through IT-based decision support and visualization tools.
Impacts to Anchialine Pools Big Island USGS Tolerances of damselflies and shrimp to salinity.
Sea Level Rise Policy Study Hawaiʻi Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy Best practices and policy options for adaptation to climate change.
Monthly sea level reports Hawaiʻi NWS Conference call on monthly sea level, ENSO, and PEAC rainfall outlooks.
Digital elevation models of sea level rise Big Island NPS Located specifically in parks.
Digital elevation models Midway USGS Map current and future habitat of seabirds based on SLR predictions.
Maps of wave impact and storm driven inundation Midway USGS High resolution digital elevation models.
Sea level rise model Heʻeia UH/SOEST Modeling coastal wetland and beach vulnerabilities to sea level change.
Seasonal outlook Hawaiʻi NOAA and other partners Seasonal water level and storminess outlook proof of concept for coastal flooding/erosion risk warning.
Gap Description Specific Location(s)
Bathymetry/Topography Integrated Topographic/Bathymetry (topo/bathy) digital elevation model All SSP
Bathymetry/Topography Near-shore Bathymetry/EAARL green laser LiDAR for shallow water bathymetry Midway, French Frigate Shoals
Bathymetry/Topography National Geodetic Survey (NGS) approximate bathymetry using WorldView-II 8-band satellite imagery Midway, French Frigate Shoals
High definition topography map High definition topography map for use in inundation mapping and elevation dependent assessments. Heʻeia and Big Island
Vertical Datum VDATUM – transforms vertical geospatial data and is therefore beneficial for use in a variety of applications, including inundation models and shoreline extraction from LiDAR. Currently, there is no VDATUM in Hawaiʻi. All SSP
Vertical Datum Vertical Datum Network All SSP
Leveling of Sentinel Sites Elevation leveling Planned for Heʻeia and Big Island
Wave Monitoring Install a WaveRider buoy at Midway and, if possible, at FFS to connect wave action with rest of Pacific Midway and French Frigate Shoals
Wave Monitoring WaveRider buoy in PMNM integrated with IOOS 7-day outlook model Midway and French Frigate Shoals
Wave Monitoring Support CRED hindcast wave climatology from WaveWatch III data Midway and French Frigate Shoals
Wave Monitoring CRED wave/tide recorders moored to reef be reinstalled at Kure, Pearl and Hermes – Cost $12K each Kure, Pearl and Hermes
Ecosystems Long-term environmental monitoring for identifying conditions associated with adverse impacts from SLC to develop early warning systems, and optimize planning All SSP
Models High-definition inundation model specific enough to show potential impacts to structures in Heʻeia and agricultural land (timeframe unknown currently) Heʻeia
Models Extreme/seasonal weather events prediction models (forecasts) All SSP
Models Wave action included in inundation models (timeframe unknown currently) All SSP
Partner Assessment Assessment of players and their work in sentinel sites Big Island
Analysis of climate change impacts and associated adaptation plans/responses Cost/benefit analysis of the impacts of climate change and associated adaptation plans and responses All SSP
Analysis of CRED data from the atolls Previous Coral Reef Ecosystem Division (CRED) data from the atolls needs to be analyzed and cross-calibrated with Midway to determine if sea level fluctuations are local or archipelago-wide Midway and French Frigate Shoals
Ecosystems Identifying the impacts of SLC on species of importance for consumption (specific species to be determined in Heʻeia) Heʻeia and Big Island