Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023|
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The prolonged dry spell during what is usually the rainiest time of year continued to plague Hawaii Island in February.
According to the monthly rainfall summary from the National Weather Service in Honolulu, precipitation totals for 2022 through the end of last month were below average at all official rain gauges on the Big Island. Many of those gauges are at less than 50% of average.
The highest year-to-date rainfall total, 11.75 inches, was logged at Papaikou Well — but even that’s just 41% of its average rainfall for the first two months of the year.
“Only isolated gauges in the South Kohala, Puna and Ka‘u districts had near- to above-average totals” for February, according to Kevin Kodama, NWS senior hydrologist.
Among the automated gauges, Waiakea Uka measured the most rainfall in February, 8.27 inches, 65% of its average for the month. Glenwood, in the upper Puna rainforest, was close behind, with 8.08 inches, but that’s slightly more than half of its norm of 15.56 inches for the month.
Hilo International Airport received 6.63 inches of rain in February, but is used to getting more than 10 inches for the month.
Only Lower Kahuku, at 6.06 inches, logged an above-average February total, 138% of its norm of 4.39 inches. That, however, is an anomaly, as nearby Kahuku Ranch received just 1.43 inches, 49% of average, and South Point, also close by, recorded just 0.95 inches, 35% of its February norm.
Many West Hawaii spots were bone dry last month.
Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in Keahole greeted arrivals with even more sunshine than usual, with just 0.04 inches of rain in February, 3% of its norm of 1.17 inches.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park was only slightly wetter, with just 0.08 inches, or 7% of its usual February rainfall.
And only two of the four Kona coffee belt gauges received an inch or more of rain — Waiaha, with 1.15 inches, and Honaunau, with 1.01 inches. The other two spots, Kainaliu and Kealakekua, measured 0.37 inches and 0.36 inches, respectively, less than a fifth of their usual February rainfall.
While much of the recent news concerning winter drought has centered on Maui, most of the state is sharing in the Valley Isle’s misery, to some extent.
“The prolonged dryness since early January resulted in the return of moderate to severe drought to most of the state due to very low rainfall, stream flow levels and deteriorating pasture conditions,” Kodama said.
Kahua Ranch, with 0.41 inches of rain, and Hakalau, with 0.94 inches, logged their lowest February totals since 2000 and 2010, respectively, according to Kodama.
The state Department of Land and Natural Resources also issued its own statement Tuesday about drought conditions.
According to the DLNR, two East Hawaii streams north of Hilo — Alakahi Stream and Kawainui Stream — are operating at just 0.4% and 3% of their median flow rates recorded over the past 57 years.
Unfortunately, the lack of rain is increasing the risk of wildfires.
“As we enter the more typically dry summer months, and without significant precipitation in the next few months, Hawaii could be in store for devastating wildfires this year. We are seeing this consequence of global climate change, played out on many fronts, including fire seasons that are now year around,” said Michael Walker, the state fire manager with DLNR’s Division of Forestry and Wildlife.
Perhaps taking a cue from last year’s Mana Road fire, which blackened more than 42,000 acres on the Big Island, Walker added that it’s important that people become educated now about how to prevent wildfires — which indirectly have impacts on water supplies when native vegetation burns in forest watersheds.
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