While it isn’t even winter yet, let alone Halloween, a light blanket of snow covered portions of Hawaii Island on Monday and more is expected to fall today. While soaking rains have triggered the issuance of flood related advisories throughout the islands of Hawaii, the higher elevation of Mauna Kea on Hawaii Island has been cold enough for snow to fall instead of rain. As a storm system pushes through the central Pacific, some thundersnow is even possible today.
Hawaii’s Mauna Kea stands at 13,803 feet; it rises well above the warm tropical beaches that surround the edges of the island. While it’s the state closest to the Equator, the high elevation of Hawaii’s Big Island peaks are high enough to tangle with cold air found high in the sky. In the winter, storms frequently tap into cold air to produce snow on the volcanic peaks while soaking rains fall at lower elevations. Snow can also fall during other times of the year; strong storms to move over the islands have been known to bring down just enough cold air to produce quick snow even in summer months. While many elsewhere in the country are surprised to learn that portions of Hawaii fall under a Winter Storm or Blizzard Warning from time to time, it’s a relatively common occurrence, especially during winter months when winter storms drop heavy precipitation in the Aloha State.
A vigorous weather system is responsible for this week’s wet and white weather across the Aloha State. A deep low aloft will continue to linger north of the state, while a front near Kauai will move southeast across the area and dissipate near Maui on Thursday. With this frontal system moving through the state, the threat for flooding rainfall will diminish for Kauai County but will continues for Oahu, where the city of Honolulu is. Localized heavy showers and thunderstorms could develop from Oahu to the Big Island through the next 48 hours. Before it exits, west winds behind the front will carry bands of showers over the islands. On cold summits like Mauna Kea’s, the precipitation will fall in the form of snow rather than rain. Eventually the low responsible for this precipitation will lift away to the northeast of the state during the weekend, leading to drier weather across all of the Hawaiian Islands.
Before then, though, more snow is expected to fall, dusting Mauna Kea with more light snow. The National Weather Service office in Honolulu is calling for more snow shower activity today with the chance of thunder snow storms too. While the summit is often open to visitors who want to see snow for themselves in Hawaii, the road leading up to Hawaii’s highest elevations has been closed since Monday night and remains closed today. With snow or ice on the roads or wintry driving conditions possible, authorities close the road at the 9,200 foot level.
This October snow event is the first of what could be a long winter season. Forecasters at the National Weather Service in Honolulu are calling for a more wet than usual “wet season” which runs from now into the spring. A more wet season could translate to a more snowy season at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa summits. It may also bring about snow to Maui and it’s Haleakala Summit too.