November drier than average despite late rain

  • KEVIN KODAMA

Despite what seems like a rainy November in East Hawaii, it was still a drier-than-normal month, according to the monthly hydrology report from the National Weather Service in Honolulu.

“Even though it feels like it’s wet, it’s not as wet as it normally should be. And I think it’s because the month was a little odd,” Kevin Kodama, NWS Honolulu hydrologist said Monday. “It started off with Hilo being on pace to have a really, really dry November — that’s just looking at the first two weeks. And then the weather pattern switched considerably. It became pretty wet for the second half.

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“Even though it was very wet in the second half, because of the deficits that had built up in the first half, you still ended up with a below average month.”

November is typically one of the wettest months of the year on the windward side of Hawaii Island, the report noted.

Hilo International Airport received 10.28 inches of rain last month, 2/3 of its usual November total of 15.5 inches. That brings the year-to-date total for the airport at 89.63 inches, 78% of its 11-month norm of 115.15 inches. Mountain View’s official gauge registered 13.94 inches, which is 74% of its November average of 18.96 inches. Mountain View also recorded the highest daily total of 3.4 inches on Nov. 23. The January-November total there is 123.58 inches, 78% of the usual 158.35 inches.

And Glenwood, historically one of the rainiest populated spots on the island, tallied 12.3 inches, less than half of its 25.18 inch November norm. There is no year-to-date total for 2019 because either the gauge or the remote telemetry wasn’t functional for part of the year, but Glenwood’s usual January-November rainfall is 214.83 inches.

The dry season has definitely taken root in West Hawaii. Some gauges in the Kona coffee belt that recorded eye-popping rainfall totals in the summer months — the rainy season for that portion of the island — are showing below-average totals for November. The exceptions are Honaunau, which received 5.69 inches of rain, almost twice its November average of 3.25 inches, and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, with a total of 1.85 inches — still dry, but 167% of its usual 1.11 inches for the month.

Elsewhere on the Kona side, 1.76 inches of rain fell in Kealakekua last month, a bit more than half of its usual 3.25 inches for November. Kainaliu received only 0.74 inch, less than a quarter of its November average of 3.11 inches. And the always arid Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole was even more parched than usual, with the gauge reading a paltry 0.18 inch for the month, 14% percent of its usual 1.28 inches.

Still, many leeward gauges are on the plus-side of year-to-date totals through November, and Waiaha and Kealakekua are leading the way with 85.39 inches and 81.98 inches, respectively. For Waiaha, that’s almost twice its 11-month average of 44.64 inches and for Kealakekua, more than 1.5 times the January-November norm of 53.5 inches.

Kodama said the drier dry season for the leeward Big Island “may not necessarily be a bad thing for some people, but up on the north side of the island, they went through the summer dry and they’re still very dry.”

“I’m talking about parts of the Kohala area. … Even in Hamakua, like in Honokaa, they’re pretty dry,” he added. “So there are drought impacts over there affecting agriculture. They got some rain during the second half of November, but still not that much compared to what they should get or what they need to pull out of drought. I think the drought got worse in Waimea and the area between Waimea and Kawaihae.

“That part of the island has not gotten a whole lot of rain for several months, now.”

Kohala Ranch, always dry in November, received just 0.71 inch last month, 61 percent of its usual 1.16 inches. Waimea’s 0.55 inch of rain is just 28 percent of its usual November total of 5.57 inches. And Honokaa checked in with 2.77 inches, 29 percent of its 9.66 inches norm for November. According to the hydrology report, that represents its lowest November total since 2008.

Kodama is sticking to his guns with the prediction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s prediction of a rainier-than-usual wet season for Hawaii.

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“Even though right now it seems pretty nice, the longer-range (computer) models show January through March as still getting above-average rainfall. So the forecast, at least right now holds — where we were calling for a wetter wet season,” he said.

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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