Visualizing sea-level rise at Pu‘uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historic Park with interactive, virtual technology: A prototype augmented-reality mobile-phone application

Ocean water lies mere feet below walls, huts, and palms perched on a rocky peninsula
Some national parks in Hawaiʻi, like Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau, lie along the coastline, putting them in jeopardy with rising sea levels. (Photo: NPS)

The threat of rising sea levels to island communities is well known. However, sea-level rise projections are often depicted in ways that are not intuitive or directly applicable to community members and resource managers who most need the information.  Scientific information about sea-level rise needs to be presented in a way that effectively communicates the very real risk posed to coastal communities, infrastructure, and cultural assets.  This project builds upon data developed through previous USGS Pacific Islands CASC work. It goes beyond simple sea-level rise visualizations and leverages the ever-growing computational power of modern smart devices to provide interactive and immersive outreach materials through a type of technology known as augmented reality (AR).

AR technologies allow for digital, three-dimensional content to be placed into real-world environments, which can then be viewed through the lens of a smart device. The application developed from this work will feature an interactive, virtual model of Puʻuhonua O Hōnaunau (PUHO) National Historical Park in which the user will be able to explore the effects of projected sea-level rise on park assets. The proposed application for PUHO will be capable of sophisticated user interactions, including the ability to target specific future years, assess frequency of inundation, and target specific park assets to explore. In addition, the PUHO application will be greatly enhanced by state-of-the-art drone imagery and lidar elevation data already collected as part of PI CASC funded work.

This work will provide National Park managers with a scientific tool to help them better understand and prepare for future changes and risks. It can also be expanded upon and applied to other areas that are under the risk of impacts from sea level rise.





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


Nemanja Komar
Scientific Programmer, UH Sea Level center, UH Mānoa
Darren Lerner
Director, Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program/PI-CASC