Report: Despite El Niño conditions, Hawaiʻi rainfall is near normal
Ongoing El Niño climate conditions have not generated as much dry weather as expected in the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaiʻi Drought Council reports.
“It’s difficult to predict climate anomalies,” said Kevin Kodama, a National Weather Service senior service hydrologist. “The ocean is saying El Niño is in place, with sea surface temperatures near the equator above average. Clearly, the atmosphere did not get the memo over Hawaiʻi.”
The name of the ocean-warming trend in the Pacific comes from South American fishermen who noticed warmer coastal waters occurring every so often around Christmas. They called it “El Niño,” Spanish for boy child, in connection with the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Significant rainfall in December and January, reduced drought conditions in the Hawaiian Islands. As of Feb. 1, the US Drought Monitor reports that a “small sliver of West Maui is abnormally dry,” and North and East Hawaiʻi Island continue to have abnormally dry or moderate drought conditions. The remainder of the state not showing drought – for now.
“Climate models favored below-average rainfall into the start of the 2024 winter season,” Kodama told the council. “That was not the case in December and January. We are still expecting drier-than-normal conditions through the rest of the wet season that ends April 30, and into the start of the May-through-September dry season. El Niño is predicted to die out in the spring and maybe switch to La Niña in the summer.”
Severe impacts to drinking and agricultural water supplies have been avoided so far. But, based on National Weather Service forecast models, there’s still potential for an early dry season. That could lead to potential shortages for homes with water catchment systems.
The Honolulu Board of Water Supply reported to the council that ground water wells are normal and recharging with recent rainfall. However, if O‘ahu enters summer with low levels of water in wells, that would be a concern.
In preparation for dry weather conditions, the council is preparing a public awareness campaign to promote water conservation. The “Treat Every Drop Like a Gift” campaign is expected to kick off prior to the start of Hawaiʻi’s dry season.