Monthly Climate and Impacts Report for Hawaii - January 2013

Chris O'Connor and Dr. Pao-Shin Chu
Hawaii State Climate Office
Department of
University of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI 96822

Precipitation and Temperature

After a record breaking fall and early winter season of dryness, January 2012 experienced a complete change of trend. What a great month of much needed precipitation for the state of Hawai’i! This month saw above average rainfall amounts in most all areas of the state, as well as cooler than normal temperatures felt state-wide. Honolulu experienced above average rainfall amounts (~105%) for the first time in ten months.  Some of the other islands felt an even greater amount of rainfall, ranging upwards of 150% of the normal precipitation levels for January. Kauai was hit with a much needed 159% of normal precipitation. Hawai’i and Oahu islands saw rainfall which was about even to the normal amount for the month. Maui was the only island to see less than normal precipitation, however the island was not necessarily dry as it still felt about 70% of the normal precipitation. As a result of the increase in precipitation, drought conditions across the state have improved drastically from previous months in most areas. Oahu and Kauai have improved the most and are mostly drought free. However, there are still small areas in the south and west parts of these islands which have drought conditions, ranging from "Abnormally Dry" (D0) to "Moderate Drought" (D1). While the eastern islands have improved as well, they still have drought areas ranging from "Abnormally Dry" (D0) to "Extreme Drought" (D3) on a scale of D0-D4. The big picture: thanks to a couple solid precipitation events, drought conditions have greatly improved in the entire state!

Across the state, mean temperatures as well as mean highs and mean lows were below their respective historical averages. This is most likely due to the significant systems felt throughout the month which brought heavy rainfall to the state, as well as cooler than normal temperatures.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center seasonal outlook for Hawaii predicted below normal temperatures and median precipitation and for the entire state in February 2012. 


Fall 2012 was a time of uncertainty in regards to ENSO. Initial reports dating back to the summer pointed towards an El Nino development for the 2012-13 winter season. However the past few months have brought along the development of ENSO neutral conditions. As of the end of January, the ENSO Alert System Status is “not active” and ENSO-neutral conditions continue. Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST) are near average to below average across the Pacific Ocean. Some atmospheric circulation features resemble La Nina, but this is at least partially due to an active Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). The general consensus is that ENSO-neutral is favored for the Northern Hemisphere into spring 2013.


January 2013 was filled with a lot of excitement from the atmosphere. On Monday 1/14/13 a record rainfall of 0.92 inches was set at Lihue, which breaks the old record which was set at 0.74 inches set in 2004. Towards the very end of the month Hawai’i experienced a solid system which brought in heavy rainfall for a few days straight and left citizens a bit shaken. On Sunday 1/27/13, Lihue experienced a record breaking 2.51 inches of rain, which broke the old record of 2.25 inches set in 1971. This storm also brought flash flood warnings state-wide.

Oddly enough, two days before the previous record was broken, on Friday 1/25/13 a high temperature of 86 degrees F was set in Kahului. This event saw a relaxed state of trade winds, which brought about the increase in temperature in some parts of the state. Another temperature anomaly was felt on 1/22/13 in Hilo, when a new record for low temperature was broken with a 58 degree F low temperature.

Rain and temperature records were not the only news of interest. On 1/6/13 residents lost power and roofs as powerful winds thrashed the state. Wind advisories were put in place, as violent winds caused by a high-pressure system northeast of the Hawaiian islands blew apart roofs, felled trees and knocked out power in communities across the state. No injuries were reported as a result of any of the wind-related incidents.