Daydreams of the tropical paradise of Hawaiʻi rarely include snow in the imagery, but nearly every year, a beautiful white blanket covers the highest peaks in the state for at least a few days. However, systematic observations of snowfall and the snow cover dimensions on Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Hawai‘i Island are practically nonexistent. A group of climate modelers led by Chunxi Zhang from the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) used satellite images to quantify recent snow cover distributions patterns.
With Kevin Hamilton and Yuqing Wang, he developed a new daily index of snow cover on the mountains from examination of satellite spectral imagery from 2000 to 2015. Using that data for groundtruthing, he modeled the future of Hawai‘i’s mountain snow. Their results indicate that the two volcano summits are typically snow-covered at least 20 days each winter, on average, but that the snow cover will nearly disappear by the end of the century.