Drought lingered on the Big Island through another dry winter and is returning this summer to more deeply ravaged, already water-stressed places. These next five months aren’t expected to bring any real reprieve, especially for leeward areas, said Kevin Kodama, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service.
Weather officials are predicting persistence and possible worsening of drought on the Big Island. Most of the island’s leeward sites had less than 50 percent of normal rainfall during the wet season, which typically runs October through April. Some areas that had slight improvement because of rain earlier this year are already intensifying again and not expecting to get better soon.
On the other hand, most of Big Island’s windward areas had 80 to 110 percent of the normal rainfall range during the wet season, which was ranked the 18th wettest season out of the last 30 years. In fact, the gauge at Hilo Airport received 79.65 inches.
The only exception to the latest prediction is the upland coffee belt, particularly in South Kona, which is unique in that more rainfall is typically observed in the summer than in winter, Kodama said. One theory for this is the onshore sea breeze is more persistent, ascending the mountain slopes, to interact with descending trade winds through the saddle, producing local showers usually in the late afternoon. Meanwhile, the rest of the Hawaiian Island chain generally experiences a dry season, running from now through September.
La Niña conditions, which typically last about nine to 12 months, were primarily to blame for the drier than normal wet season. La Niña is defined as cooler than normal sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean that impact global weather patterns. Continue reading
Rainfall levels in Upcountry areas are below normal this year, and there’s a bleak outlook for rain for ranchers and farmers as the islands head into the normally dry summer months, a hydrologist said Thursday.
“We’re headed out of our wet season. The outlook is not too good,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service on Oahu.
From January through March, Kula received 5.5 inches of rain. Normally, it gets around 8.7 inches, Kodama said. Pukalani received 4 inches in the same time period while it normally gets around 16 inches. Ulupalakua received a little under 5 inches, and it usually gets about 10.
“We’re in really bad shape,” said Sumner Erdman, president of Ulupalakua Ranch. “The economic impacts have already hit.”
Erdman said this will be the fourth year his ranch has been impacted by dry conditions.
The economic losses amount in the “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” he said.
The ranch has had to sell cattle. It now also sees cattle with lower weights because less rain means cows have less grass to feed on. The ranch also has lower reproduction rates because there are fewer cows to breed, Erdman said.
Over four years, the number of breeding cows has gone from 2,300 to 1,500, as the ranch sells them off to deal with the drought conditions, Erdman said.
The ranch currently has 3,800 head of cattle, with preparations under way to sell more, he said.
Warren Watanabe, executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, said the dry weather trend seems to follow the long-term prediction of scientists.
Because areas of extreme drought in Hawaii have increased in the past few months, with the hardest hit being the pasture areas on the Big Island, Maui and portions of Molokai, the farm bureau’s priority during this legislative session has been to fund drought mitigation projects. Continue reading
There’s not enough for all projects planned, proposed; viability of cloud forest a worry
By ILIMA LOOMIS, Staff Writer
WAILUKU – Building out all the developments that have already been planned or proposed on Lanai would result in more water being pumped out of the island’s wells than could be sustained, according to the county’s draft Lanai Water Use and Development Plan.
The plan also finds that as much as 28 percent of the water pumped on the island is unaccounted-for due to loss or waste in the system, and that the island’s watershed is so fragile that a loss of the Lanaihale cloud forest could reduce water levels in the island’s only viable aquifer by 50 percent. Continue reading
Michelle Galimba has been moving her livestock across her 10,000-acre Kuahiwi Ranch to higher elevation in Kau on the Big Island in hopes of finding better pastures during a drought that is causing her business and others hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses.
“It’s pretty severe,” she said. “I’d say half of the pastures on our ranch is unusable or going to be unusable very shortly.
“They’re literally turning to dust. The soil’s drying up and blowing away.”
Galimba said South Point received 1.76 inches of rain from January through mid-July, compared with its usual 12 inches.
The National Weather Service said 2010 is bringing the worst drought on record for ranchers and farmers in some parts of the state, including Kau.
“If they don’t have more rainfall at a higher rate in the second half, it could be the driest year on record,” said Kevin Kodama, senior hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Honolulu. Continue reading