Extreme rains threaten Hawaii’s coral reefs

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In this 2020 aerial photo provided by the Arizona State University’s Global Airborne Observatory, runoff from the island of Molokai in Hawaii flows into the ocean. Recent flooding in Hawaii caused widespread and obvious damage. But extreme regional rain events that are predicted to become more common with global warming do not only wreak havoc on land, the runoff from these increasingly severe storms is also threatening Hawaii’s coral reefs. (Global Airborne Observatory, Arizona State University via AP)

HONOLULU — Recent flooding in Hawaii caused widespread and obvious damage. But extreme rain events that are predicted to become more common with warming temperatures do not only wreak havoc on land. The runoff from these increasingly severe storms is also threatening Hawaii’s coral reefs.

The runoff problem is multifaceted, but one of the biggest issues is pollution from the state’s 88,000 cesspools, which regularly overflow into the ocean when there’s heavy rain. And while increasing ocean temperatures can sicken and kill coral, scientists say the less well known threat of runoff could prove more serious for reefs in the Hawaiian Islands.

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