Hurricane swallows Hawaii island whole

1 EastIslandFlyBy Drone Pilot Kristian McDonald University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

1 EastIslandFlyBy Drone Pilot Kristian McDonald University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa

Although experts can not directly trace the shrinking of East Island to the effects of climate change, Clark said, it contributes to the strength and frequency of hurricanes like the one that overtook the island.

Fletcher and his colleagues were researching East Island via drone devices and sand and coral samples.

"East Island appears to be under water", said a statement from the Papahānaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

Before Hurricane Walaka swept through the central Pacific this month, East Island was captured in images as an 11-acre sliver of sand that stood out starkly from the turquoise ocean. Now it's beneath the sea, washed away by a hurricane.

First of all, the disappearance of the island will affect the population blocarii monk seals and green sea turtles, for whom it was a place of permanent habitation.

Fletcher said the loss is a huge blow, and the team did not expect the island to disappear that quickly.

Hurricane Walaka, which battered the remote French Frigate Shoals early October, has devoured one of the atoll's islets, satellite images have revealed.

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"I had a holt s**t moment, thinking 'Oh my God, it's gone, '" Chip Fletcher, a climate scientist at the University of Hawaii, told the Honolulu Civil Beat.

The island had been part of the French Frigate Shoals, an atoll in the far western reaches of the Hawaiian archipelago. Threatened green sea turtles and albatrosses also depended on East Island for survival.

Fletcher said, 'It's one more chink in the wall of the network of ecosystem diversity on this planet that is being dismantled'.

The storm hit after most of the turtles and seals had migrated for the season, but they will still have to adjust to the new habitat when they return.

Federal Agency of the U.S. National oceanic and atmospheric administration (NOAA) now estimates the damage to the disappearance of the island may cause to the animals.

Some 96 percent of the Hawaiian sea turtles used to nest on the French Frigate Shoals, and over half of them on the now-submerged East Island.

"These small, sandy islets are going to really struggle to persist" as the seas rise because of anthropogenic global warming, Charles Littnan, director of NOAA's protected species division, told the Huffington Post.

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