Monthly Climate and Impacts Report for Hawaii - March 2013

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

Precipitation and Temperature

This winter season brought recovering trends in rainfall amounts. As the transition to spring has come, Hawai'i has seen a healthy amount of precipitation to start the season, especially in the areas where moisture was needed most. Not as noteworthy as January, March produced a good amount of moisture for the state, most significant in the western islands. This month saw significantly above average rainfall amounts in some areas of the state, while other areas saw slightly less than half the normal levels. This polarized precipitation trend can be generalized by splitting the state into eastern and western areas. The eastern section saw drier than normal conditions while the western section of the state experienced wetter than normal conditions. Kahalui experienced below average rainfall amounts (~48.16% of normal) for the first time in 4 months.  Hilo experienced an even less amount of rainfall (30.38% of normal), which is a sharp contrast to the immense amount of precipitation Hilo experienced in February. Oahu and Kauai, the western section of the state, was more fortunate than their sister islands, pulling in above average rainfall amounts. Honolulu experienced 146.04% normal rainfall while Lihue saw 103.9% normal rainfall. As a result of the increase in precipitation especially in the western portion of Hawai'i, drought conditions across the state have seen a continued improvement from previous months. Oahu and Kauai have improved to almost drought free conditions! However, there are still small areas in the south and west parts of these islands which have "Abnormally Dry" (D0) drought conditions. 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 of healthy months of rainfall during winter and the beginning of spring, drought conditions have greatly improved in the entire state!

Across the state, mean temperatures as well as mean highs and mean lows were well below their respective historical averages for most all areas. Winter 2012-2013 brought warmer than normal temperatures to the state, however March has been a different story. This is most likely due to a couple significant systems felt throughout the month which brought heavy wind and some rain to the state.

The NOAA Climate Prediction Center seasonal outlook for Hawaii predicted below normal temperatures and median precipitation for the entire state in April 2013, due to expected lower than normal sea surface temperatures.


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 winter season proved to bring along the development of ENSO neutral conditions. As of the end of March, the ENSO Alert System Status is “not active” and ENSO-neutral conditions continue. Equatorial sea surface temperatures (SST) are near average across the Pacific Ocean. Over the last couple months, the atmospheric circulation has been variable partially due to an active Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). The general consensus is that ENSO-neutral is favored into the Northern Hemisphere summer 2013.


March 2013 saw some very interesting activity in terms of weather in the state of Hawai'i, as several records were set concerning precipitation and temperature. On Sunday 3/10/13 a record rainfall of 1.67 inches was set in Honolulu, which breaks the old record of 1.65 inches set in 1951. Moving to Lihue, a second system brought extremely heavy rainfall for the state. On Wednesday 3/27/13, Lihue experienced a record breaking 1.23 inches of rainfall, which broke the old record of 1.12 inches set in 2006.

Previously discussed in this report was the below average temperatures experienced state wide this past month. One particularly cold day brought along such cold temperatures that two records were broken. On Sunday 3/17/13, a record low of 57 was set in Lihue, breaking the previous record of 59 set in 1955. Secondly, a record low of 55 was set in Kahalui, which tied the previous record of 55 set in 1955.