Climatic Change

, Volume 116, Issue 3–4, pp 547–563 | Cite as

Assessing vulnerability due to sea-level rise in Maui, Hawaii using LiDAR remote sensing and GIS

  • Hannah M. CooperEmail author
  • Qi Chen
  • Charles H. Fletcher
  • Matthew M. Barbee


Sea-level rise (SLR) threatens islands and coastal communities due to vulnerable infrastructure and populations concentrated in low-lying areas. LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) data were used to produce high-resolution DEMs (Digital Elevation Model) for Kahului and Lahaina, Maui, to assess the potential impacts of future SLR. Two existing LiDAR datasets from USACE (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) were compared and calibrated using the Kahului Harbor tide station. Using tidal benchmarks is a valuable approach for referencing LiDAR in areas lacking an established vertical datum, such as in Hawai‘i and other Pacific Islands. Exploratory analysis of the USACE LiDAR ground returns (point data classified as ground after the removal of vegetation and buildings) indicated that another round of filtering could reduce commission errors. Two SLR scenarios of 0.75 (best-case) to 1.9 m (worst-case) (Vermeer and Rahmstorf Proc Natl Acad Sci 106:21527–21532, 2009) were considered, and the DEMs were used to identify areas vulnerable to flooding. Our results indicate that if no adaptive strategies are taken, a loss ranging from $18.7 million under the best-case SLR scenario to $296 million under the worst-case SLR scenario for Hydrologically Connected (HC; marine inundation) and Hydrologically Disconnected (HD; drainage problems due to a higher water table) areas combined is possible for Kahului; a loss ranging from $57.5 million under the best-case SLR scenario to $394 million under the worst-case SLR scenario for HC and HD areas combined is possible for Lahaina towards the end of the century. This loss would be attributable to inundation between 0.55 km2 to 2.13 km2 of area for Kahului, and 0.04 km2 to 0.37 km2 of area for Lahaina.


Shuttle Radar Topographic Mission Hydrologically Connect Tidal Data LiDAR Point National Geodetic Survey 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We appreciate comments by three anonymous reviewers. Data were provided by the NOAA CSC, NGS, Hawai‘i Statewide GIS Program, and DigitalGlobe. This study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah M. Cooper
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Qi Chen
    • 1
  • Charles H. Fletcher
    • 2
  • Matthew M. Barbee
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Hawai‘iHonoluluUSA
  2. 2.Department of Geology and Geophysics, School of Ocean and Earth Science and TechnologyUniversity of Hawai‘iHonoluluUSA

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