Posted by: Anna Webb | July 12, 2009

Hawaii Hurricane Season: Predictions and Preparedness

Hurricane Flossie on August 14, 2007, south of Hawaiian Islands. (Credit: NOAA)

Hurricane Flossie on August 14, 2007, south of Hawaiian Islands. (Credit: NOAA)

Hawaii’s hurricane season runs from June 1st through November and is technically underway. In the first article link below, the NOAA has predicted a “normal” season with the possibility of 4-5 events including tropical storms, tropical depressions and hurricanes. They also predicted an El Nino “late in the season”. That prediction has fallen by the wayside since an El Nino has been announced and it’s still EARLY in the season. This pattern is similar to the 4 year pattern in the 1990’s that brought Hurricane Iniki our way.

What is an El Nino weather pattern?

Essentially an El Nino is a change in the dance between wind and ocean water. The typically dominant tradewind diminishes which then allows the ocean to “lead the dance”. When normal tradewinds diminish, the build up of Western Pacific warm ocean water is allowed to flow back into the cooler water of the Eastern Pacific. Eastern Pacific waters become warmer as less cold water is pulled up from below and the warmer water dominates. The wind becomes even weaker and allows the warmer water to grow into what we’ve termed an El Nino. The ocean, now in control of the dance, has a “party” of a variety of deep ocean waves which move from West to East toward South America. These are subtle waves with a big impact. After a year or so (4 years in the 199o’s), the wind resumes the dance lead and pushes the warm waters back Westerly and allows for more ‘normal’ weather patterns. See link below for more detailed/technical information regarding El Nino.

The benefits of an El Nino

The main benefits of an El Nino weather pattern are for Mainland U.S. and the Atlantic regions. More significant Winter precipitation falls in the drier U.S. Southwest region and less dramatic Winter storms impact the Northern U.S. regions. In addition, an El Nino weather pattern has been found to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity. There are no real positive benefits for the Pacific regions.

Negative impact of an El Nino

Unfortunately the negative impacts affect West coast Mainland U.S., Central and South America, Hawaiian Islands, Indonesia and Australia. In the West coast Americas region we find diminished nutrients crucial to healthy bird and marine life and see more bird and fish “die-off”. Central and South America tend to receive significantly increased rains causing flooding and mudslides while Indonesia and Australia experience drought conditions. In essence, El Nino is an imbalanced weather condition. Hawaii experiences diminished tradewinds, wetter weather and increased storm activity.

How can we prepare for inclement weather? Most will tell you to stock up 5-7 days worth of supplies/food and don’t forget to include prescription drugs or other critical items. Imagine your life without a week of electricity, for example. What would you need on hand? How will you cook meals? What if your water pump doesn’t work to bring water into the house? Batteries for flashlights, propane or kerosene lamps, candles, bottled water, etc. are good to have on hand. No need to panic and rush out charging up your credit card! Simply planning ahead and picking up a few extra things at the grocery each time is a good idea.

Get with your neighbors and discuss a collective solution. Discuss chipping in on larger, more inexpensive packs of batteries, for example, or extra 5 gallon jugs of water. Walk around your property and note the areas that may flood during short, hard rains and determine if you are able to divert these areas away from your house, carport or garden areas that may flood in times of sustained hard rains.

It was noted in one article that the last El Nino was in 2006. If you lived on Big Island then you may recall it rained hard for 45 days straight in March/April that year here on the East Side. We also experienced vicious storms with severe lightning later that year. Worth noting.

NOAA May 21,2009 news article for Hawaii/Central Pacific Hurricane predictions

NOAA July 9, 2009 news article for Hawaii/Central Pacific arrival of El Nino

What is an El Nino? Scripps Institution of Oceanography Explanation.

Hawaii Stormsurf Model

National Oceanographic Data Center – Hawaii Water Temperature Table (near-time)


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