Forecasters: Drought conditions worsening statewide amid El Niño

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:50 AM HST|Updated: Sep. 20, 2023 at 4:33 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Drought conditions are not only continuing on Maui, but they’re worsening across the entire state amid the El Niño weather pattern.

That’s according to the National Weather Service’s latest drought report released on Wednesday.

Combined with seasonally warm temperatures, the researchers say all islands saw below average rainfall in August, leading to dry vegetation and very low streamflow levels.

Drought conditions are especially prominent in the West Maui mountains.

Over the past month, severe drought in Maui County covered the southwestern portion of Molokai and the lower leeward slopes of Lanai.

Moderate drought covered the remaining leeward slopes of Molokai and Lanai, and portions of Upcountry Maui.

Also on Hawaii Island, severe drought conditions have developed along the leeward slopes of Mauna Kea and the lower slopes of the Kau District from Punaluu to South Point.

The prevailing dry conditions helped to fuel brush fires in the Kohala Ranch and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel areas on Aug. 8, in Puuanahulu on Aug. 18, and in the South Point area on Aug. 19.

NWS says images taken by farmers showed poor pasture conditions in the Mana area and in the Kau District.

Forecasters said moderate drought covered most of the remaining areas of the big Island except Kona slopes and most of the South Hilo and Puna Districts.

Monitors also show leeward areas of Kauai and Oahu are drying up, too.

Ground and satellite-based observations revealed that dry vegetation had fueled a large brush fire near Wahiawa on Aug. 17 and a brush fire near Maili.

This is of particular concern amid warmer and drier conditions, which contributed to the disastrous fires on Maui on Aug. 8.

The Hawaii State Drought Council met on Aug. 30 to discuss drought impacts and mitigation actions.

Forecasters say that based on the rainfall outlook, drought conditions should continue to expand and intensify across the state over the next several months.