April is Tsunami Awareness Month in Hawaii

 

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Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (HI-EMA) is encouraging the public to take tsunami preparedness into their own hands this April during Tsunami Awareness Month. Seventy years ago, on April 1, 1946, one of the deadliest tsunamis to ever hit Hawaii caused widespread devastation on all islands. Generated by an earthquake in the Aleutian Islands, the massive tsunami took 159 lives and caused more than $26 million in damage. April was chosen as the month to honor and remember the lives lost in all tsunamis to hit the state.

Due to Hawaii’s location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we are extremely vulnerable to the threat of tsunamis. Distantly generated tsunamis can reach Hawaii within several hours and are triggered by earthquakes that take place along the Ring of Fire, which circles the Pacific Rim. Locally generated tsunamis are caused by earthquakes or volcanic activity that occur in or near the Hawaiian Islands, and can make landfall in a matter of minutes.

“There is no season for tsunamis,” said Vern Miyagi, Administrator of Emergency Management. “During a tsunami threat, people only have hours – sometimes minutes – to move to safety. For this reason, it is crucial that families and individuals have their survival kits ready ahead of time and emergency plans up to date so they can quickly respond and react in a safe and efficient manner.”

For distantly generated tsunamis, outdoor warning sirens will sound statewide. For locally generated tsunamis, however, there may not be sufficient time to sound sirens. If you are near the ocean when an earthquake takes place, immediately move to higher ground. Upon hearing any warning sirens, the public should tune immediately to a radio or television for updates and the latest information. Additionally, everyone should be able to recognize the natural warning signs that a tsunami may be imminent. Signs include: rapidly rising or receding water from the ocean; the sound of a locomotive or jet plane coming from the ocean; and empty beaches.

People located within a tsunami evacuation zone should quickly move to higher ground, or inland until they are at least 100 feet above sea level, while avoiding steep cliffs and watching for falling rocks. To find out if you live, work or play within a tsunami evacuation zone, turn to the disaster preparedness pages in your local telephone book or enter your address into the Tsunami Evacuation Zone Map Viewer on HI-EMA’s website at www.scd.hawaii.gov.

On Saturday, April 16, the Pacific Tsunami Museum (PTM) in Hilo will host an open house event with free admission to the public. During the event, PTM will unveil its brand new Science Room, which features an interactive Warning Center Simulation, among other activities. The Simulation allows guests to jump on a world map and generate an earthquake. From there, the player is faced with several questions that give them a taste of the various factors considered by the real Pacific Tsunami Warning Center (PTWC) before making critical decisions, such as issuing a tsunami warning. PTM is a is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting tsunami awareness and education through a combination of science, history and personal accounts. For more information about the open house, call 808-935-0926.

HI-EMA is also releasing a series of public service announcements, which were produced by partners within the State Department of Defense’s Public Affairs Office with the assistance of PTWC (operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) and PTM. The series provides background information about the science behind tsunamis and warning along with helpful tips about how to prepare and respond. Links to video spots can be found below:

Spot 1: Tsunami Awareness and Monitoring

Spot 2: Tsunami Evacuation & Emergency Kits

Spot 3: Natural Warning Signs of a Tsunami

Red Cross assists Saipan in wake of Typhoon Soudelor

Photo Courtesy Manas Frank Castro Tito

Photo Courtesy Manas Frank Castro Tito

Typhoon Soudelor made landfall over the weekend on the Mariana Islands of Saipan and Tinian. Category 2 hurricane force winds caused extensive widespread damage to Saipan, taking out the island’s power, water and sewage facilities and blocking major roadways.

A state of disaster and significant emergency was declared for Saipan as current conditions are expected to last for weeks.

Both Saipan and Tinian are part of the American Red Cross Pacific Islands Region, which includes Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. More than 430 people spent Sunday night in numerous government shelters and the American Red Cross is sending in a National Disaster Response Management Team to help.

Two members of the team plan to catch a military flight out from Hawaii today. Four Red Cross Volunteers from Guam are on standby to deploy to Saipan to assist with damage assessment and casework once flights become available.

“As part of the Pacific Region, we are prepared to help the Red Cross in Saipan. Volunteers are standing by,” said Coralie Chun Matayoshi, Chief Executive Officer of the American Red Cross, Pacific Islands Region.

The Red Cross stands ready to help the people of Saipan to recover from Typhoon Soudelor. This includes providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning and other assistance as well as supporting the vehicles, warehouses and people that make that help possible.

How You Can Help

Help people affected by disasters like typhoons and countless other crises by making a gift to American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters big and small. Visit redcross.org/donate, or call 1-800-REDCROSS. Contributions may also be sent to the Hawaii Red Cross chapter, which is part of the Pacific Region that includes Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Lawmakers commit to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045

Hawaii lawmakers voted 74-2 today to pass the nation’s first 100% renewable energy requirement. The measure, House Bill 623, makes Hawaii a global leader in renewable energy policy by requiring that 100% of the islands’ electricity must be generated from renewable energy resources—such as wind, solar, and geothermal—no later than 2045.

“Hawaii lawmakers made history today—not only for the state, but for the planet,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of the Blue Planet Foundation.

The measure, if enacted by Governor David Ige, would make Hawaii the first state in the nation with such a 100% renewable energy standard. Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to clear the path for 100% renewable energy, praised the move.

“Passage of this measure is a historic step towards a fossil fuel free Hawaii,” said Mikulina. “This visionary policy is a promise to future generations that their lives will be powered not by climate-changing fossil fuel, but by clean, local, and sustainable sources of energy.”

“We applaud the leadership of both the House and the Senate, and of the energy committee chairs, Rep. Chris Lee and Sen. Mike Gabbard, for helping make this historic policy a reality,” he added.

“As the first state to move toward 100% renewable energy, Hawaii is raising the bar for the rest of the country,” said Lee, the Chairman of the House Energy and Environmental Protection Committee and introducer of HB 623. “Local renewable projects are already cheaper than liquid natural gas and oil, and our progress toward meeting our renewable energy standards has already saved local residents hundreds of millions on their electric bills. Moving to 100% renewable energy will do more to reduce energy prices for local residents in the long term than almost anything else we could do.”

Senator Gabbard, Chair of the Senate Energy and Environment Committee and a champion of the measure in the Senate, shared that sentiment.

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“With this bill, we’ll now be the most populated set of islands in the world with an independent grid to establish a 100% renewable electricity goal,” said Sen. Gabbard. “Through this process of transformation Hawaii can be the model that other states and even nations follow. And we’ll achieve the biggest energy turnaround in the country, going from 90% dependence on fossil fuels to 100% clean energy.”

House Bill 623 also increases the interim requirement to 30% renewable by 2020. Last year, Hawaii generated about 22% of its electricity from renewable resources.

While Blue Planet had hoped for an earlier target date, 2045 was a compromise reached by lawmakers.

“The progress we are seeing in renewable energy and storage technology is showing us that Hawaii can cost effectively rid itself of fossil fuel sooner than we think,” said Mikulina.

A few locations around the globe have already achieved 100% clean energy (Iceland, El Hierro, Tokelau, and others), and some have set 100% renewable energy targets (Denmark, by 2050; Tuvalu, Cape Verde, and other small island nations, by 2020; and Japan’s Fukushima prefecture by 2040). Currently, 29 states plus Washington, D.C., have renewable energy standards. Since 2009, Hawaii has had the highest standard of the states (40% renewable by 2030), although several states are already exceeding these standards by using renewables for 60 to 90% of their local electricity generation. The California legislature is currently considering two measures to increase the state’s requirement to 50% renewable by 2030.

“The greatest achievements in history all started with a goal,” said Henk Rogers, President of Blue Planet Foundation. “Setting our new goal of 100% renewable energy for the islands is the vision we need today to achieve a sustainable tomorrow.”

Community leaders also praised the legislature’s leadership in setting the highest renewable energy standard.

“Hawaii can be a bright spot—a story of hope for environmental stewardship around the world, said Nainoa Thompson, Native Hawaiian navigator and the president of the Polynesian Voyaging Society. “Our islands will be some of the first to be deeply affected by climate change, and we have an opportunity today to take the lead for the nation. Together, we will chart a course for a more sustainable Hawaii and a more sustainable Island Earth.”

Blue Planet Foundation led a broad lobbying and grassroots effort to cultivate support for the policy. The organization also led an effort to channel the support of students statewide to lawmakers in the form of letters and illustrations. Over 500 drawings were collected (available for viewing online). The illustrations were compiled into a coffee table book that students delivered to all legislators and the Governor.

“The messages from the students were really a special moment—they underscored why we worked so hard to lock in 100% energy independence for Hawaii,” said Mikulina. “These students will be inheriting the consequences of decisions leaders make today. They are raising our aspirations—and our expectations.”

In addition to House Bill 623, lawmakers passed legislation today to further support achievement of the 100% renewable energy requirement. Legislation directing the Public Utilities Commission to establish a community solar program, Senate Bill 1050, passed by a large margin. The measure creates a program that enables electricity customers to own or lease renewable energy equipment located anywhere on their island grid. Participants will receive credit for that energy on their electric bill, just as if the panels were located on their own roof. Legislators also passed Senate Bill 349, a measure establishing a tax credit for locally produced biofuels.

“With policies like these, Hawaii will be sending a signal to the world that 100% renewable energy isn’t just a vision, it’s a commitment,” said Mikulina.

Legislature advances bill calling for fossil fuel-free future

800 students and teachers from across the state submitted illustrations of their vision of a world with 100% renewable energy. Their drawings and letters were hand delivered to our legislators at the Capitol.

800 students and teachers from across the state submitted illustrations of their vision of a world with 100% renewable energy. Their drawings and letters were hand delivered to our legislators at the Capitol.

A joint House-Senate conference committee passed a measure yesterday that would make Hawaii a global leader in renewable energy policy. The measure, HB 623 CD1, requires that 100% of Hawaii’s electricity be generated from renewable energy resources, such as wind, solar, and geothermal, by 2045.

The measure, if passed, would make Hawaii the first state in the nation with such a 100% clean energy standard. Blue Planet Foundation, whose mission is to clear the path for 100% renewable energy, praised the move.

“Passage of this measure is a historic step towards a fossil fuel free Hawaii,” said Jeff Mikulina, Executive Director of Blue Planet Foundation. “This visionary policy is a promise to future generations that their lives will be powered not by climate-changing fossil fuel, but by clean, renewable sources of energy.”

“We applaud the leadership of the energy committee chairs, Rep. Chris Lee and Sen. Mike Gabbard, for helping make this historic policy a reality,” he added.

“The greatest achievements in history all started with a goal,” said Henk Rogers, President of Blue Planet Foundation. “Setting our new goal of 100% renewable energy for the islands is the vision we need today to achieve a sustainable tomorrow.”

House Bill 623 also increases the interim requirement to 30% renewable by 2020. Hawaii currently generates about 22% of its electricity from renewable resources.

A few locations around the globe have already achieved 100% clean energy (Iceland, El Hierro, Tokelau, and others), and some have set 100% renewable energy targets (Denmark, by 2050; Tuvalu, Cape Verde, and other small island nations, by 2020; and Japan’s Fukushima prefecture by 2040). Currently, 29 states plus Washington, D.C., have renewable energy standards. Since 2009, Hawaii has had the highest standard of the states (40% renewable by 2030). The California legislature is currently considering two measures to increase the state’s requirement to 50% renewable by 2030.

The measure now goes before both the full House and Senate for a floor vote, likely next Tuesday, May 5.

“With this policy, Hawaii will be sending a signal to the world that 100% renewable energy isn’t just a vision, it’s a commitment,” said Mikulina.

About Blue Planet Foundation

Blue Planet Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to clearing the path for 100% clean energy. We inspire leaders to change the rules and accelerate cost-effective, secure, renewable energy. We inspire communities to adopt smart, replicable energy solutions. We inspire everyone to believe in the power and possibility of a future beyond fossil fuels.

Photo courtesy Blue Planet Foundation on Facebook.

How do volcanoes affect the weather and climate?

Before tropical storm Iselle’s landfall on August 7, conventional wisdom among many residents was that the Island of Hawai‘i is immune to hurricanes because its large volcanic mountains obstruct approaching storms, diverting them around the island.

Topography indisputably influences the weather—that’s why precipitation is so much greater on the windward side of the island. But how much did Hawai‘i’s topography influence Iselle? Hurricane Iselle weakened to a tropical storm just as it reached the island, but still managed to make landfall. As it did, the bulk of the storm stalled on the east flank of Mauna Loa, but its weakened upper parts continued moving westward.

Aside from Mauna Loa’s arguable topographic effects on Iselle, there is another potential impact of volcanoes to consider. Active volcanoes can sometimes affect weather—and climate—by discharging gases and particles into the atmosphere.

The three dominant gases emitted by volcanoes are water vapor (about 90%), carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. Both water vapor and carbon dioxide are important greenhouse gases. “Greenhouse” refers to the fact that these gases trap solar radiation.

In a simplified way, here’s how it works: Visible and ultraviolet radiation from the sun heats the earth’s surface. The surface then re-radiates some of this energy back up through the atmosphere as infrared radiation, which selectively heats greenhouse gases in the atmosphere—and the greater the concentration of greenhouse gases, the greater the atmospheric heating. Without greenhouse gases, the infrared radiation would just escape into space. The greenhouse gases, however, re-radiate the heat in all directions, including back to the surface.

Carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere remains there for a long time, so increasing concentrations of this gas result in long-term global warming. The residence time of water vapor in the atmosphere is normally much less than that of carbon dioxide. However, the concentration of water vapor in the atmosphere does increase with temperature. So, heating of the atmosphere by carbon dioxide buildup increases the amount of atmospheric water vapor, creating a positive feedback mechanism that further increases the temperature.

The scientific community generally accepts that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the principal contributor to global warming. But, it’s noteworthy that volcanoes contribute less than one percent to this buildup. The bulk of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide comes, instead, from human activity.

For example, the largest volcanic eruption during the past 100 years occurred in 1991 at Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. It would take 700 Pinatubo-like eruptions each year to equal the annual carbon dioxide emissions from human activities. Closer to home, it would take more than 11,000 simultaneous Kīlauea eruptions to equal that amount.

Large volcanic eruptions have been observed to affect Earth’s climate, but through global cooling rather than warming. This cooling is the work of sulfur dioxide, the third common volcanic gas.

Sulfur dioxide injected into the stratosphere by powerful eruptions reacts chemically, producing sulfur acids, which in turn form the same sulfate aerosols commonly found in vog (volcanic smog). These tiny stratospheric aerosol particles reflect sunlight (heat) energy back into space, causing cooling of the lower atmospheric layers.

The 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption (http://pubs.usgs.gov/pinatubo/hoblitt2/index.html) created what is thought to be the largest stratospheric sulfur dioxide injection of the 20th century. For three years following the eruption, the earth’s surface cooled by as much as 1.3 degrees Celsius (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit).

Sulfate aerosols also act as nuclei for condensation in clouds, which, in turn, can affect weather dynamics. In a recently published scientific paper (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL060033/full), investigators suggest that sulfate aerosols in vog (from Kīlauea gas emissions) were ingested by Tropical Storm Flossie as it passed by the Hawaiian Islands in July 2013. It appears that this vog ingestion triggered lightning, which was previously absent. This effect is thought to be a consequence of vog-borne sulfate aerosols that enhanced the condensation of small cloud droplets. According to the investigators, this enhanced condensation triggered a chain of events that produced ice pellets in the higher, colder part of Flossie. Collisions between pellets caused a buildup of static electricity that was then discharged as lightning.

So, it appears that Mauna Loa did have an impact on Tropical Storm Iselle, but only as a large mountain and not as an active, degassing volcano. Past eruptions elsewhere, however, have shown that volcanic gas emissions can cause changes in local weather, as well as global cooling.

For additional information on the effects of volcanic gases on climate, please visit this page.

Kīlauea activity update

The summit lava lake within Halemaʻumaʻu Crater produced nighttime glow that was visible via HVO’s webcam over the past week. The lava lake level fell slightly, in response to gradual summit deflation and was roughly 45 m (150 ft) below the rim of the Overlook crater on Thursday, August 21.

On the East Rift Zone of Kīlauea Volcano, the June-27th flow from Puʻu ʻŌʻō advanced toward the northeast and was 9.4 km (5.8 miles) from the vent on August 18. Within the Puʻu ʻŌʻō’s crater, glow was visible above several outgassing openings in the crater floor.

No earthquakes were reported felt during the past week on the Island of Hawai‘i.

Visit the HVO website for past Volcano Watch articles and current Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, and Hualālai activity updates, recent volcano photos, recent earthquake data, and more; call (808) 967-8862 for a Kīlauea summary; email questions to askHVO@usgs.gov.

Volcano Watch is a weekly article and activity update written by scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey`s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.