VIDEO: Haleakalā Snow Twice in a WeekMarch 11, 2015, 3:12 PM HST · Updated March 12, 10:05 PM 0 Comments
<Update 3/12/15 at 10:30 a.m.>
A spokesperson for the Haleakalā National Park released a statement today saying, “We had some sleet near the Haleakala Visitor Center yesterday and high winds. Currently the summit is reporting 15 mph wind gusts, damp, temps in the low 40s.”
The National Park Service also sent video shot yesterday at the Haleakalā Visitor Center by Wendy Swee, an employee of the Hawai`i Pacific Parks Association.
When the temperature at the surface dips to freezing (32°F) several types of precipitation can occur, including freezing rain, sleet or snow. Sleet is a form of precipitation that consists of small ice pellets that will bounce off of objects. It often falls along with a mix of rain and snow.
(Posted on 3/11/15)
The National Weather Service has not issued any winter weather advisories for the summit of Haleakalā. Generally, at least an inch of forecasted snow is required before the organization would post a Winter Weather Advisory.
National Weather Service forecaster, Robert Ballard, says that “snow falls lower than it’s supposed to because the layer saturates and precipitation evaporatively cools the layer. Temperature alone is not a good indicator of whether or not it is snowing. When conditions are right, snow can fall at temperatures in the upper 30s or even low 40s. On the other hand, rain can fall at temps in the 20s.”
Observatory worker, Richard Harris, sent this video of snow falling at the summit of Haleakalā around 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. He says it snowed for about an hour and winds were blowing at about 50 mph.
Since this morning, temperatures have warmed up a bit and rain began to fall. At this hour, temperatures are again dipping near freezing with a current temperature of 33.5°F or 0.8°C at the summit.
Observatory worker, Jason Ellison, reports that at the AEOS facility at 9,996 feet of elevation, “it was indeed snowing. However, there is no accumulation to report as of yet. The off-going shift reported that it has been on and off snowing from 11 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. As of 2:45 p.m., it has completely stopped snowing and we are experiencing zero visibility due to fog and clouds.”
Maui resident, Ponch Pantorilla, observed snow at about 7:30 a.m. as well, and snapped these shots.
He says winds were at 35 + mph and snow flurries were occurring. When he checked the outdoor temperature, it was at 33° with a windchill of about 17°.
Wintry weather is not unheard of on the summit of Haleakalā. In fact, less than a week ago, several observatory workers and Maui residents sent Maui Now photos of snowfall at the summit. Read the story HERE.
Just two months ago on Jan. 3, 2015 residents also reported observations of snow on the summit. Park officials reported that it was actually ice and frost, which can look like snow from a distance. Frost is moisture from humid air that settles on the ground or on plants and freezes into ice.
Resident Sifan Kahele shared these photos with us from that event which leads us to believe that snow may also have fallen during that event.
As frost is confined to the ground, the precipitation that was observed today and earlier this week was indeed snow. Snow can only form in clouds as the ice crystals grow around condensation nuclei and then fall to the ground.
Real-time viewing of the summit area is available via the University of Hawaiʻi Institute for Astronomy’s Haleakalā web cams. The web cam observations (image to the right) reflect the same timing observed by observatory workers at the summit this morning.
The peak of Haleakalā volcano is measured at 10,023 feet above sea level. It is the highest point on Maui, and the third-highest point in the state.