El Niño brings record low rainfall to state - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

El Niño brings record low rainfall to state

(Image: Hawaii News Now/File) (Image: Hawaii News Now/File)
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Pao-Shin Chu (Image Source: Hawaii News Now) Pao-Shin Chu (Image Source: Hawaii News Now)
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

This is supposed to be the wet season in Hawaii. But so far this year, that hasn't been the case. 

All the islands are "abnormally dry," according to the United States Drought Monitor, which also says the leeward areas of Kauai, Maui County and the Big Island are under moderate drought. And the leeward Haleakala slopes on Maui from Kihei to Wailea are already in severe drought.

It's a reversal from our wet summer, when Diamond Head was lush and green in September.

State climatologist and University of Hawaii professor Pao-Shin Chu has the data to prove this is an El Niño year. Or, he could just look at his own front yard.

"Maybe every few days we water the lawn. But this year we just use the automatic sprinkler, and every day, we water the lawn," Chu said.

The current dry spell began in December and got worse in January, according to the latest figures from the National Weather Service. In fact, the very dry conditions broke records for the lowest January rainfall in all four counties.

On Kauai, Mount Waialeale, sometimes called the "wettest spot on earth," got just 3.38 inches of rain in January, making it the driest January since the record of 2.93 inches in 1978.

Honolulu's rainfall in December and January totaled just .3 of an inch, far below the average of 5.55 inches for the period.

The Puu Kukui rain gauge in the usually-wet West Maui Mountains got 1.08 inches of rain, just three percent of the January average. 

The Big Island got less than 30 percent of its average January rainfall, and leeward areas got less than ten percent. 

Chu said the pattern follows a typical El Niño year, which also brought a record number of tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific. It also brought huge north shore swells, including the one that brought the Eddie Aikau big wave surf competition. 

Chu believes the current El Niño is already beginning to diminish and will likely be gone by summer.

"This is a typical El Niño-related drought, so don't panic about this kind of low rainfall," he said. "I think this will be over."

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