SALT LAKE CITY — A Hawaiian island is gone thanks to a powerful hurricane that swept through the region earlier this month.
What happened: East Island vanished from its location after Hurricane Walaka ravaged Hawaii in October, The Guardian reports.
- The remote gravel and sand island sat on top of a coral reef. Scientists captured images of the area where the 11-acre island once stood. It’s now gone.
- “I uttered a swear word. I had a ‘holy cow!’ moment, somewhat in disbelief that it had disappeared,” said Chip Fletcher, a professor of earth sciences at the University of Hawaii.
- The Civil Beat’s Nathan Eagle shared a before-and-after image on Twitter:
Chip Fletcher, a University of Hawaii scientist, wasn't surprised a hurricane — made more intense due to #climatechange — had wiped out East Island in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, home to endangered seals and sea turtles. But he didn't expect it this soon. #hinews @noaa pic.twitter.com/ejcGuh0XMF— Nathan Eagle (@NathanEagle) October 22, 2018
How they found it: Fletcher and his fellow researchers set out to capture images and samples of sand from the island to understand more about its age.
- “The island was probably one to two thousand years old and we were only there in July, so for it to be lost right now is pretty bad luck,” Fletcher said. “We wanted to monitor the island so we are disappointed it has gone, but on the other hand we have learned these islands are far more at risk than we thought. I thought the island would be around for a decade or two longer, but it’s far more fragile than I appreciated. The top, middle and bottom of it has gone.”
The future: It’s unclear if the island will come back.
- The seals and turtles who use the island already left for the season. It’s unclear how many animals will return, USA Today reports.
Bigger picture: Fletcher told HuffPost events like this might become more common.
- “This is not surprising when you consider the bad luck of a hurricane going into that vicinity and sea level rise already sort of deemed the stressor in the background for these ecosystems,” he said. “The probability of occurrences like this goes up with climate change.”