Projecting the frequency and impact of future coastal fooding and inundation events in the Pacific Islands

Scenic view of low-lying buildings nestled between the base of tree-covered slopes and a blue bay.
Pago Pago, the territorial capitol of American Samoa. Backed by steep slopes, communities, and infrastructure are highly vulnerable to coastal inundation. (Photo: AlanGrey/CC by 2.0)

Increasing numbers of hazardous inundation events due to climate change is a serious threat to the culture, habitat, and infrastructure of the Hawaiian and U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands. The information currently available to stakeholders, however, is primarily confined to maximum or mean water level and does not include how often incursions are likely to occur. We propose to quantify the effect of local factors and Pacific climate variability on the frequency of inundation events in centers of population and infrastructure in Pacific island communities. We will produce seasonal outlooks that project the number of incursions above a given level at a particular site in 3-6 month windows. We choose seasonal outlooks, because inundation events tend to cluster seasonally based on coastline orientation, storm tracks, dominant swell direction, and tidal amplitude. These same principles will then be applied to quantify how often severe inundation seasons are likely to occur given longer term changes related to natural and anthropogenic climate change.





Philip Thompson
Assoc. Director of UH Sea Level center, UH Mānoa


Matthew J. Widlansky
International Pacific Research Center, UH Mānoa
Janet M. Becker
Professor of Geology, UH Mānoa
Mark A. Merrifield
Professor of Oceanography, UH Mānoa
John J. Marra
Regional Climate Services Director, NOAA