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Meeting with Obama officials focuses on climate

The event is one of five nationwide to help the government prepare for global changes

By Helen Altonn

LAST UPDATED: 10:36 a.m. HST, Jul 8, 2010

Senior members of President Obama's administration will have an opportunity tomorrow to hear from island leaders and residents about the effects of climate change in Hawaii and the Pacific.

Honolulu is the site of one of about five Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force public meetings scheduled across the country. The first two were held last month in Portland, Ore., and Miami.


The Pacific Islands perspective on climate change and a Pacific cultural overview will be presented at an Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force meeting from 1 to 4:30 p.m. tomorrow at the East-West Center, Keoni Auditorium.

A live webcast will be shown at

For more information, go to


Representatives of more than 20 federal agencies, Pacific Island governors, state officials and scientists are expected to attend the meetings, to begin at 1 p.m. at the East-West Center.

Hawaii in many respects is ahead of the rest of the nation in building regional services to prepare for, and be less vulnerable to, the effects of climate change, Eileen Shea, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration official based here, said in an interview.

The key word is "adaptation," Shea said, which means making changes to reduce exposure to risk and respond better to climate conditions to reduce adverse effects.

Changes affecting the Pacific include temperature and sea-level rise, storms and coastal inundation and climate changes affecting coastal and marine ecosystems and water resources.

Obama signed an executive order last October asking the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force to develop federal recommendations within one year for adapting to climate change impacts.

Shea is chief of the Climate Services Division of NOAA's National Climatic Data Center and has directed the agency's Integrated Data and Environmental Applications Center in Honolulu since 2005.

"A lot of lessons learned in the Pacific are helping to shape what the entire agency is doing for the future climate service," she said.

Jim Weyman, meteorologist-in-charge of the National Weather Service's Honolulu Forecast Office and director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, cites Kona coffee growers suffering from drought as an example.

The weather service has put data together in a useful format to show growers what kind of rainfall pattern to expect in certain El Nino conditions, he said. This information, to be presented at a meeting in Kona next week, can help growers decide when to plant and how much to trim, based on prospects of a wet or dry season, Weyman said.

Shea said the Kona coffee-grower example was cited by the U.S. secretary of commerce in announcing creation of a climate service.

Shea said the idea is to bring NOAA climate activities together to work more effectively for water resource, disaster management and coastal zone management, as well as fisheries and wildlife management.

"When we think about ways in which real people in real places are affected by climate, the Pacific always rises to the surface as a good example," she said. "People who live in islands are much more sensitive to the environment around them. It is part of our fabric."

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