Climate Change Research in Support of Hawaiian Ecosystem Management: An Integrated Approach

Oliver Elison Timm
Posted on: 7/18/2022 - Updated on: 7/14/2023

Posted by




Surrounded by saltwater, human and natural communities on the Hawaiian Islands depend upon the freshwater supplied by rainfall for survival. Climate change will likely alter rainfall timing and intensity, but global climate models cannot capture the fine-scale dynamics of local rainfall, making future rainfall predictions for the islands uncertain. For this project, scientists used a technique called statistical downscaling (combining coarse-scale climate models with local historical data) to generate high-resolution maps showing seasonal rainfall change projections for Hawai'i over the course of this century. Results suggest that Hawaiʻi’s climate will become drier overall in the second half of the century, but this effect will vary considerably across the islands and by season. There may be an increasing contrast between wet and dry regions on each island, as wet areas become wetter and dry areas become drier. The maps and findings produced by this project offer critical information for resource managers as they undertake adaptation and water management planning. They also provide a foundation for further ecological research, such as exploring the impacts of climate change on native Hawaiian plants and animals.

Climate change and its impact on natural environments are critical issues facing resource and ecosystem managers throughout the world and specifically in the Pacific U.S. region. The key goals of this study are:

  1. To understand how changes in the Earth’s future climate system will affect the frequency and severity of extreme weather events in Hawai'i
  2. To support studies of the ecological impacts of climate change on native Hawaiian plants and animals
  3. To provide information needed by natural resource managers charged with preserving native biodiversity

To achieve these goals, this project will build on a previous Pacific Island Climate Change Cooperative (PICCC) project to update climate change projections (using a technique called statistical downscaling) for Hawai'i. With collaboration from partners at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, researchers will also assess species and ecosystem responses to potential climate variations, such as the recurrence and intensity of heat waves, droughts, and storms.

Project of the Developing High-Resolution Rainfall Change Scenarios for the Hawaiian Islands project.

Affiliated Organizations

Established in 2012, the Pacific Islands CASC (PI-CASC) provides regionally-relevant scientific information, tools, and techniques to resource managers and communities in Hawai'i and the U.S.-Affiliated Pacific Islands.

Related Resources