Researchers Warn Hawaii Coastal Areas Threatened by ‘King Tides’

May 24, 2017

Scientists have issued a warning that Hawaii faces the threat of serious coastal flooding this week and in June because a rare convergence of rising sea levels and some of the highest tides of this year.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday that the next so-called “king tides” are expected Wednesday and Thursday. They are expected again June 23-24 and July 21-23.

The impact of the high tides could be particularly severe on the southern side of the island of Oahu, but the tides could affect all of Hawaii’s Islands.

Coastal property owners should prepare for high tides similar to those in April that swamped beaches, boat ramps and roads, said Mark Merrifield, director of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center.

The ocean around the islands has been experiencing higher sea levels over the last several years as cyclical global influences have pushed a vast stretch of higher seas across the Pacific Ocean, Merrifield said.

“We’re in the middle of something that is going to take a while to resolve,” Merrifield said. “The sea level will go down eventually, but right now we’re in this high period.”

Merrifield’s Sea Level Center is predicting that elevated water levels are likely to linger at least through the summer.

“South-facing shores, like Waikiki, are the areas we are worried about,” he said. “Even without the waves, groundwater flooding will be an issue. With the waves, now we’re talking about overtopping of berms, coastal flooding and erosion.”

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