The drought could return during the summer | News, Sports, Jobs

Parts of Maui County could experience severe drought and possibly extreme drought by the time the dry season ends in September, a weather official said Thursday.

The conditions are “doesn’t look good in terms of rain,” Kevin Kodama, a senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service, said Thursday during a news conference that his main focus was on the hurricane season forecast.

He said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts below-average rainfall during the dry season, this month through September and into the wet season.

The greatest chance of severe drought and possibly extreme drought is in the leeward areas, especially Maui County and the island of Hawaii.

He added that the impacts are expected to be worst for agriculture without irrigation, areas with water systems that rely on surface water diversions like the Upcountry and West Maui, and residents that rely on rainwater harvesting.

“I would say that although (water) supplies may be adequate now, it wouldn’t hurt to start conserving to ensure adequate supplies later.”Kodama said in an email after the news conference.

While below-average dry-season rainfall isn’t typical of the summer months of an El Niño-onset year like this, it has happened in the past, Kodama said, pointing to the example of 2009, which was the ninth driest season in the state in 30 years.

“The concern here is that if our dry season has below-average rainfall, we may not see any relief during the next wet season because El Niño will likely result in below-average rainfall in 2024 as well.”Kodama explained.

Because there were late rains during the just-ended rainy season, significant wildfire risk is expected to develop later than normal between late July and early August, Kodama said.

The rainy season from October 2022 to April 2023 began with severe or extreme drought in parts of all four counties throughout the state.

October and November saw a slow start to the rainy season with rainfall totals near or below average. There were wet conditions with cold fronts in mid-December and then it was dry from late December to mid-January.

But from February through April, there was near-above-average rainfall in many places, and by mid-February all drought in the state was eliminated.

Localized drought briefly returned to Maui and the island of Hawaii in April and early May.

On Thursday, the US Drought Monitor indicated that only the northern part of the island of Hawaii was experiencing “abnormally dry”conditions compared to the rest of the state.

During the rainy season, Maui County’s rainfall totals were mostly 90 to 120 percent of average.

The rain gauge at the Kahului airport recorded 13.96 inches of rain during the last rainy season, which was the 13th wettest.

The Molokai airport’s rain gauge recorded 25.68 inches of rain, which is the second-wettest on record, according to NOAA.

*Melissa Tanji can be reached at [email protected].

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