Western Coastal and Marine Geology

Coastal and Nearshore Erosion

Beach Loss in the Hawaiian Islands

Coastal erosion is a widespread, chronic, and locally severe problem in the Hawaiian Islands and elsewhere in the U.S. Pacific tropical environments. The beaches in Hawaii derive most of their sediment from the surrounding reefs, and factors that affect the growth and health of living reefs, such as deterioration in water quality or severe storms, can have an adverse effect on beach sediment supply. There are two factors responsible for the importance of understanding island beach systems:

  1. tourism in Hawaii is a multi-billion dollar industry that is inextricably linked to the health of the beaches, and
  2. the peoples of Hawaii have a very strong cutural attachment to their beaches.

Loss of beaches through erosion has a large adverse impact on the economy of the State. The US Geological Survey, in cooperation with scientists at the University of Hawaii, documented the magnitude and extent of beach loss and conducted a research program designed to understand the underlying causes of the erosion unique to the Hawaii environment. The latest techologies in surveying, remote sensing, image analysis, and process experiments were used to analyze the coastal system. Results from this program provide useful information to planners, engineers, and resource managers for the development of appropriate management and engineering guidelines.


  • "Hawaii Beach Monitoring Program" by Ann E. Gibbs, Bruce M. Richmond, Charles H. Fletcher, and Kindra P. Hillman, USGS Open-File Report 01-308
  • "Atlas of Natural Hazards in the Hawaiian Coastal Zone" by Charles H. Fletcher III, Eric E. Grossman, Bruce M. Richmond, and Ann E. Gibbs, USGS I Map 2761
  • "DATA REPORT: Geology of Reef-Front Carbonate Sediment Deposits around Oahu, Hawaii" by Monty A. Hampton, Charles T. Blay, Christopher Murray, Laura Z. Torresan, Cathy S. Frazee, Bruce M. Richmond, and Charles H. Fletcher, USGS Open-File Report 03-441


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U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey | Western Coastal & Marine Geology
URL: http://walrus.wr.usgs.gov/research/hawaiico.html
maintained by Laura Zink Torresan
last modified 2004