Passive Flooding: Hawaii: 2.0-ft Sea Level Rise Scenario

Passive flooding was modeled by the University of Hawaii Coastal Geology Group using a modified "bathtub" approach following methods described in Cooper et al. 2013. The passive flooding model provides an initial assessment of low-lying areas susceptible to flooding by sea level rise. Passive flooding includes areas that are hydrologically connected to the ocean (marine flooding) and low-lying areas that are not hydrologically connected to the ocean (groundwater). Data used in modeling passive flooding include global sea level rise projections, digital elevation models (DEM), and the mean higher high water (MHHW) datum from local tide gauges. DEMs used in this study are freely available from NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). DEMs are derived from aerial light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data. The horizontal and vertical positional accuracies of the DEMs conform to flood hazard mapping standards of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA 2012). The IPCC AR5 RCP8.5 sea level rise scenario was used in modeling exposure to passive flooding from sea level rise at 0.5, 1.1, 2.0, and 3.2 feet. This particular layer depicts passive flooding using the 2.0-ft (0.5991-m) sea level rise scenario. While the RCP8.5 predicts that this scenario would be reached by the year 2075, questions remain around the exact timing of sea level rise and recent observations and projections suggest a sooner arrival.

Passive flooding was modeled using the DEMs in geographic information systems software to identify areas below a certain sea level height (flooded by sea level rise) when raising water levels above current Mean Higher High Water (MHHW) tidal datum. In other words, water levels are shown as they would appear during MHHW, or the average higher high water height of each tidal day. The area flooded was derived by subtracting a tidal surface model from the DEM.

Assumptions and Limitations: In many areas around the State, representing sea level rise from passive marine flooding will likely produce an underestimate of the area inundated or permanently submerged because the model does not account for waves and coastal erosion, important processes along Hawaii's highly dynamic coasts. For this reason, coastal erosion and annual high wave flooding (provided separately) are also modeled to provide a more comprehensive picture of the extent of hazard exposure.

The passive flooding model does not explicitly include flooding through storm drain systems and other underground infrastructure, which would contribute to flooding in many low-lying areas identified in the model. The DEMs used in the modeling depict a smoothed topographic surface and do not identify basements, parking garages, and other development below ground that would be affected by marine and groundwater flooding with sea level rise. The passive flooding model is intended to provide an initial screening tool for sea level rise vulnerability. More detailed hydrologic and engineering modeling may be necessary to fully assess passive marine flooding hazards at the scale of individual properties.

For further information, please see the Hawaii Sea Level Rise Vulnerability and Adaptation Report:

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Last Updated January 3, 2020, 12:13
Created January 3, 2020, 12:13
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