Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Did Hawaii Just Receive Its Lowest Snowfall Ever?

Climate
A view from the entrance of Polipoli state park in Maui, which saw snow for perhaps the first time over the weekend. Avriette / CC BY-SA 3.0

A damaging storm pummeled the Hawaiian islands over the weekend, downing trees and power lines, raising 60-foot-waves, and potentially breaking records for wind speed, low temperatures and snowfall. And scientists say this is exactly the kind of extreme weather event made more likely by climate change.

"There's no place on the planet where (people) can expect to see conditions as they have been in the past," University of Hawaii at Mānoa Earth Sciences professor and Honolulu Climate Change Commission vice chair Chip Fletcher told USA Today of the weekend's storm.


The Hawaii Tourism Authority on Sunday had to warn visitors from snorkeling, surfing, hiking and swimming because of the storm, and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said the Aloha state could see more weather patterns like this.

"We're going to be dealing with this much, much more in the future with our changing climate," Caldwell said at a Sunday press conference, according to USA Today.

Lowest Snowfall?

The element of the storm that has garnered the most attention has been the snowfall at surprisingly low elevations.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) wrote in a Facebook post that snow had been reported at Polipoli State Park in Maui "for perhaps the first time ever." The park is only 6,200 feet above sea level.

"It could also be the lowest elevation snow ever recorded in the state," Hawaii DLNR said.

National Weather Service (NWS) in Honolulu meteorologist Melissa Dye told the Huffington Post that the park saw four foot snow drifts.

"It's just real white like ice now, so it's just blowing around and drifting," she said.

However, The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang cautioned that the snow fall might have actually been graupel, a type of small hail. Weather balloon readings taken on the Big Island suggested the atmosphere was too warm for snow below 8,000 feet. However, Dye told the Huffington Post that temperatures at Polipoli must have hit freezing, though the NWS does not have a sensor there.

Snow fell inside Maui's Haleakala crater at an elevation of 6,000 feet on Feb. 19, 1903, The Washington Post reported.

Other Records

The weekend's storm did bring unusually low temperatures to go along with the unusually low snowfall.

Sensors at the summit of the Big Island's Mauna Kea recorded lows between minus-10 and minus-12 degrees Celsius (approximately 10.4 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit), The Washington Post reported. The lowest temperature ever recorded for the area was minus-11.1 degrees Celsius (approximately 12.02 degrees Fahrenheit) in May 1979.

A wind speed of 191 miles per hour was also recorded on Mauna Kea, which will be the highest in the state's history if verified. The weekend's storm was also one of the strongest wind storms to ever hit Hawaii.

The wind was combined with unusually high waves.

"The forecasters were spot on with their predictions. They're calling this an unprecedented event and we concur that we rarely if ever have seen the combination of record high on-shore waves, coupled with gale force winds," DLNR Office of Conservation and Coastal Lands administrator Sam Lemmo said in the DLNR Facebook post.

A Year of Extremes

The Washington Post pointed out that the weekend's storm follows a year of extreme weather for Hawaii:

  1. Between April 14 and 15 of 2018, the town of Hanalei on Kauai recorded 49.69 inches of rain, breaking the U.S. record for the most rain to fall in one place in 24 hours.
  2. Between Aug. 22 and 26, Hurricane Lane poured 52.02 inches of rain on Mountain View on the Big Island, narrowly beating the state's previous tropical rainfall record of 52 inches.
  3. Hawaii was impacted by three tropical cyclones in 2018: Hector, Lane and Olivia. This is the first time the state has weathered three such storms in a single season, but that could change as weather patterns that kept tropical cyclones south of the state change due to climate change.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Activists of Greenpeace and Fridays For Future demonstrate on a canal in front of the cooling tower of the coal-fired power plant Datteln 4 of power supplier Uniper in Datteln, western Germany, on May 20. INA FASSBENDER / AFP / Getty Images

The Bundestag and Bundesrat — Germany's lower and upper houses of parliament — passed legislation on Friday that would phase out coal use in the country in less than two decades as part of a road map to reduce carbon emissions.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

By Tara Lohan

Would you like to take a crack at solving climate change? Or at least creating a road map of how we could do it?

Read More Show Less
Climate campaigners and Indigenous peoples across Canada have spent the past several years protesting the Trans Mountain pipeline. Mark Klotz / Flickr / cc

By Elana Sulakshana

Rainforest Action Network recently uncovered a document that lists the 11 companies that are currently insuring the controversial Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline in Canada. These global insurance giants are providing more than USD$500 million in coverage for the massive risks of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline, and they're also lined up to cover the expansion project.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Leah Campbell

After several months of stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are beginning to experience family burnout from spending so much time together.

Read More Show Less
Food Tank

By Danielle Nierenberg and Alonso Diaz

With record high unemployment, a reeling global economy, and concerns of food shortages, the world as we know it is changing. But even as these shifts expose inequities in the health and food systems, many experts hope that the current moment offers an opportunity to build a new and more sustainable food system.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Brian J. Love and Julie Rieland

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the U.S. recycling industry. Waste sources, quantities and destinations are all in flux, and shutdowns have devastated an industry that was already struggling.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Pixabay

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

Unhealthy foods play a primary role in many people gaining weight and developing chronic health conditions, more now than ever before.

Read More Show Less