Generating a shoreline inventory for Hawai‘i island to increase resilience in the face of rising sea levels

Globally, shorelines provide a vital defense system against extreme weather and erosion events and are a critical public and cultural resource. Within the state of Hawaiʻi, coastal vulnerability and historic change has been well-documented and studied on the Islands of Oʻahu, Maui, and Kauaʻi, but this has not been done for the Island of Hawaiʻi, the largest and most diverse island in the Hawaiian archipelago. For example, Hurricane Lane caused major flooding and coastal erosion on Hawaiʻi Island in 2018, but no comprehensive baseline shoreline dataset exists to document and quantify the changes it caused.

Spume-capped waves crash against a low black basalt rock shoreline
Hawai’i Island has a wide variety of coastal geographies with varying vulnerabilities to sea-level rise. (Photo: Courtney Schaneville)

To help fill this knowledge gap, this study aims to create a shoreline inventory of the entire coastline of Hawaiʻi Island using a helicopter-mounted imaging system. On-the-ground survey data will also be collected in a number of priority target locations to supplement the imagery collection effort. The resulting imagery and data will be post-processed at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Spatial Data Analysis & Visualization (SDAV) Research laboratory to develop detailed images and maps that can be used to identify areas most at-risk from sea-level rise and coastal erosion impacts.

These datasets will be shared with the Hawai’i State GIS Program and hosted on their web portal for open public access. As a public resource, these data and products will build capacity amongst governmental agencies, stakeholders, and the scientific community, as strategies are developed to build community resilience amongst a rapidly changing climate.





Ryan Perroy
Associate Professor of Geography and Environmental Science, UH Hilo


Aloha Kapono
Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Program, UH Hilo


Steven Colbert
University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Bethany Morrison
County of Hawai’i Planning Department
David Benitez
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park