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Especially dry March felt by most of East Hawaii

El Nino has made his presence known on the Big Island, with March rainfall totals reaching less than half of their monthly averages.

Most rain gauges on the east side of the island received less than 50 percent of their March average rainfall last month, with many only receiving less than one third. Only four inches of rain were recorded at Hilo International Airport — 35 percent of its March average.

Even the wettest windward sites on the island were uncharacteristically dry. Glenwood, which receives 25 inches of rain in an average March, received slightly more than seven inches last month, while Mountain View only received six inches, a far cry from its usual 18. Pahoa, meanwhile, only fared nominally better, receiving five inches of rain out of its average 14.

Only three rain gauges in East Hawaii received more than 50 percent of their March average last month: the perpetually wet Saddle Quarry, which received 10 inches, 69 percent of its average; upper Waimea, which received 5 inches, 79 percent of its average; and Kawainui, whose 16.4 inches were 99 percent of its average March rainfall.

The only rain gauge on the island to record higher-than-average rainfall last month was in Kealekekua, where five inches of rain is 146 percent of its average March rainfall. According to the National Weather Service, more than three of those inches fell in a single afternoon, on March 27, setting the highest daily total on the island for last month.

The west side of the island was similarly dry, with many rain gauges recording less than an inch of rain last month, including at Kona International Airport, where 0.46 inches of rain fell, a quarter of its monthly average.

This year to date, some places are still wetter than average, but most rain gauges are trending at about 50 percent of an average year’s rainfall. Hilo and Papaikou are currently at just over 50 percent of an average year’s rainfall so far, with Pahoa at 67 percent and Waikoloa at 49 percent.

National Weather Service hydrologist Kevin Kodama said the dry month is likely a result of El Nino, a periodic warm weather pattern that affects Pacific Ocean currents. While Kodama said this year’s El Nino event took a bit longer to manifest than had been anticipated, the rain shortfall on the Big Island was to be expected.

“It’s a bit of a weak event,” Kodama said.

“But weak El Nino events can still have big rains. Weak El Ninos tend to be a bit leaky.”

Eric Tanouye, president of Hilo floraculture nursery Green Point Nurseries, said March’s lack of rain has not particularly impacted the flower industry yet. In fact, the lack of rain seems to have brought an increase in sunny days, which is a boon to his flowers at this time of year.

Tanouye said his business could theoretically withstand a month of only 25 percent of its average rainfall if the weather returned to normal shortly thereafter.

“Hopefully this is not prolonged,” Tanouye said. “If it goes back to normal soon, then we should be good.”

Kodama said the weakness of the El Nino effect might allow for the return of stable tradewinds on the island within the coming months, perhaps as soon as next week.

“You can’t stop the march of the sun,” he said.

Email Michael Brestovansky at
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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