HONOLULU (KHON2) — The iconic Waikiki Beach, valued at $2.2 billion and at the center of Hawaii’s tourism is drastically eroding, according to the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
During a study from 2018 to 2020, a research team led by Climate Resilience Collaborative, Geospatial Analyst Anna Mikkelsen, conducted weekly surveys at the beach.
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The team found that the beach is primarily dominated by longshore transport.
Longshore transport means that the sand is moving from one end of the shore to the other, according to the research teams finding.
The team compared other beach models and found that the shore movement of Waikiki Beach was uncommon compared to others.
“Another surprising finding was that we did not find any clear seasonal signal,” said Mikkelsen.
Mikkelsen continued, “Instead of seeing high volumes of sand in summer, and low volumes in winter, we saw consistently increasing beach volume the first 12 months of the study and then erosion of the beach the following 10 months.”
Researchers found that the reason to these unusual changes were due to the wave energy from the south swell, the water level and trade-wind generated waves.
In an additional study led by Kristian McDonald, the team surveyed the beach weekly during the season of Central Pacific hurricanes and powerful southerly swells.
“We found a clear relationship between increases in south swell and beach accretion (gradual accumulation); and on the flipside, increased trade swell was associated with beach erosion,” said McDonald.
McDonald continued, “In addition, the hurricane activity of 2018 generally increased the surface area and volume of this beach due to the associated increase in south swell wave energy.”
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According to the CRC, they are using this data and knowledge to monitor Oahu’s beaches and the changes it undergoes.