Over the summer of 2017, several rounds of record-breaking high tides swallowed up stretches of Hawaii beaches and put flood-prone areas like Mapunapuna virtually underwater. So why were these king tides so prevalent only this year?
Scientists point to a few key factors — such as normal seasonal high tides, a type of ocean circulation, a large swell event and long-term sea level rise — all stacked up on each other. But perhaps the most elusive of them all: The “blob,” an area of warmer and higher seas concentrated around the Hawaiian island chain.
“It has hung around so long that we have named it … ‘Nu‘a Kai,’ a build-up of the sea,” said coastal geologist Chip Fletcher, SOEST’s Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and a professor of Geology and Geophysics (G&G).
Not a lot of information exists as to what caused the “Nu‘a Kai,” which has persisted all year. But scientists all agree that it’s somehow related to the strong El Niño years of 2015 and 2016. “Unusual for Honolulu is that sea levels have been above normal every month since the end of the strong El Niño in 2016,” said Matthew Widlansky, a sea level researcher at the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) and at the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR)’s UH Sea Level Center (UHSLC).
Read more about it at Hawaii News Now.