At the University of Hawaii at Manoa campus in Honolulu, Hawaii today, meteorologists with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) and the Honolulu office of the National Weather Service (NWS) were on-hand to discuss the Outlook for the 2023 Hurricane Season which begins in the Central Pacific on June 1; the expected impacts of El Nino on the Aloha State were also discussed. Among those joining the CPHC and NWS were Hawaii Governor Josh Green, M.D., and emergency management officials from the Hawaiian islands of Kauai, Oahu, Maui, and Hawaii also known as the “Big Island.”
NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center announced that conditions are prime for an above-normal season in the months ahead. Specifically, they said there’s a 50% chance of an above-normal season, a 25% chance of a near-normal season, and a 15% chance of a below-normal season. While forecasters include the expected number of tropical cyclones in the basin, they do not forecast where they will go once they form until they form. As such, some or none of these expected storms may make a rendezvous with Hawaii.
For the 2023 season, 4 to 7 tropical cyclones are predicted for the central Pacific hurricane region, which is located north of the equator between 140°W and the International Date Line. A near-normal season has 4 or 5 tropical cyclones. Tropical cyclones include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
Hawaii Governor Josh Green, M.D., announced a proclamation during today’s seasonal outlook release, declaring May 21 to May 27 as Hurricane Preparedness Week in Hawaii. In his remarks, Green shared his conversation with Guam Governor Lou Leon Guerrero yesterday , who told him she had several inches of rain water in her home from the typhoon that was hitting there. The Governor warned hurricanes can impact all people and it’s important for people to be prepared ahead of threats. “Please be ready… Please do take these recommendations to heart. Please, now that we’re in the season, have 14 days of water , have food available for you, know where you’ll go if there’s a storm and you’re asked to go to shelter in a safe place,” the Governor urged.
“The last few hurricane seasons have been pretty quiet around Hawaii, luring some folks to let their guard down. Now it’s looking like this season will be more active than the past several years,” said Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center. “It’s more important than ever to review your emergency plan and supply kit now, so you will be prepared for the next hurricane threat.”
In addition to Brenchley’s remarks on the upcoming hurricane season, Kevin Kodama, Hydrologist at the NWS Honolulu office, also shared a 2022-2023 Wet Season Rainfall Summary. According to Kodama, the October-April wet season in Hawaii was an unusual one, starting off with severe or extreme drought in portions of all four of Hawaii’s counties. La Nina was in place during all of 2022 and into early 2023, which made an impact on the weather pattern and the overall wet season. As La Nina faded, the drought faded too, with rain returning in earnest; overall, Hawaii saw the 9th wettest wet season over the last 30 years based on data collected from 8 sites across the state. The Big Island saw the most rain, with rainfall amounts recorded at 130-170% of average. Hilo Airport alone recorded their 11th wettest wet season, with 87.29″ of rain falling over the October-April period.
Both Brenchley and Kodama discussed El Nino which appears to be returning to the Pacific basin. A strong El Nino is likely to form during the summer and is expected to persist into 2024.
ENSO, short for El Nino Southern Oscillation, is a recurring climate pattern involving changes in the temperature of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. On periods ranging from about three to seven years, the surface waters across a large swath of the tropical Pacific Ocean warm or cool by anywhere from 1°C to 3°C, compared to normal. This oscillating warming and cooling pattern, referred to as the ENSO cycle, directly affects rainfall distribution in the tropics and can have a strong influence on weather across the United States and other parts of the world. El Niño and La Niña are the extreme phases of the ENSO cycle; between these two phases is a third phase called ENSO-neutral. While this phenomena impacts the entire United States, Hawaii may find itself particularly vulnerable this year to bad weather conditions.
The Central Pacific Hurricane Center’s Chris Brenchley, who serves as Director, unveils their seasonal outlook, showing odds favor an above normal hurricane season in the waters around Hawaii. #HIwx pic.twitter.com/sde3mVeX62
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) May 25, 2023
Meteorologists in Honolulu explained that El Nino will impact hurricane season, which is why an above-average season is expected. And while there’s an elevated risk of being impacted by hurricanes, Hawaii could see severe drought unfold. Severe drought and possibly extreme drought is expected to develop by the end of the dry season, with the highest likelihood in the leeward areas, especially in Maui County and the Big Island.
The Honolulu NWS office warns, “Impacts are expected to be the worst for non-irrigated agriculture, water systems dependent on surface water diversions, and residents relying on rainfall catchment.” Due to late wet season rainfall, a significant wildfire risk is expected to develop later than the normal late-July to early-August time frame. Fuels from recent wet season growth will be abundant, setting the stage for fire problems later in the year.
Talmadge Magno, the Administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense, was present at the outlook presentation today in Honolulu. He expressed concern with the forecast for Hawaii and his island.
“I think the last 3 years, no matter what the numbers are, we always got to be prepared. Look what’s happening in Guam -it just takes one storm to create a disaster,” Magno said.
Magno said being prepared is the best thing the people across Hawaii can do now. “The thing to take home this year is just be ready. Take this seriously. Have a plan; don’t just have a plan, but think it through.”
In addition to the above-average hurricane season expected, Magno is also concerned about the forecast of severe drought returning to Hawaii, especially on the Big Island.
“We know, through dry periods in January, people were suffering with the lack of water. People need to build capacity,” Magno said. “With this forecast, knowing there’s going to be less rainfall, people need to build capacity. Get larger tanks, catch that water, make sure you don’t have leaks in your system. Remember: water isn’t only for your consumption, but it’s also for fighting fires.”
Water catchment, also known as water harvesting, is the process of collecting and storing rainwater. Water catchment systems collect water from rain gutters and use pipes to direct it to a storage tank. Once collected, pumps move the water from storage into the home in place of typical municipal water systems. On the Big Island of Hawaii, there is limited public water service and an abundance of residential catchment systems.
Laura Kay Rand, VP and Chief Impact Officer for @hawaiifoodbank , gives a passionate plea to encourage people across Hawaii to prepare and think about people that may lack food security as they develop their own plans this hurricane season. #HIwx pic.twitter.com/nyrCzWOpBN
— the Weatherboy (@theWeatherboy) May 25, 2023
The 2023 Central Pacific Hurricane Season runs at the same time as the Atlantic Hurricane Season: June 1 through November 30, although storms do sometimes form in the off-season in both basins.