LIHUE — El Nino looks slow and weak but not that wet.
That’s why weather forecasters are anticipating a mild or slightly drier wet season this winter.
“For a wet season, it should be below average rainfall,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu. “It is still expected to develop but it is not forecasted to be as strong as it was predicted earlier.”
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in Honolulu said that while El Nino is slow to develop, it should fully develop by the end of the year. That should bring dry conditions. El Nino, a cyclical warm phase in the equatorial Pacific of about seven months as opposed to a normal three-month period, typically results in reduced precipitation and lesser trade winds.
The news of the expected dry winter — which should last through April — comes on the heels of a wetter than usual summer.
May through September was the wettest in 30 years, with above average rainfall statewide. Even with a late August and early September dry period, the monthly rainfall broke records at 16 sites.
There were drought areas on Kauai during the dry season. Records didn’t break, but most measurements were close to record levels, Kodama said, especially at the Mana airport area near Barking Sands,
“They were pretty wet,” he said.
Chris Brenchley, NWS meteorologist in Honolulu, said that while it may be dry, it’s unlikely to stop winter storms from delivering rain to the islands, like when storms from the West drag a cold front across the state.
No individual island is being singled out for greater risk of drought.
Drier conditions are expected to mainly affect agriculture and those who get water through catchment. They might begin to feel drought effects late in the wet season ending in April, Brenchley said.
Still, the wet summer also means the state is in relatively good shape.
El Nino can affect weather worldwide. In Hawaii, a strong El Nino may cause a strong high-pressure ridge to sit over the islands and rainfall to be sharply below normal.
But a weak El Nino will allow parts of the winter to be wet and rainy, Brenchley said.
While Kauai is drought free, Maui County has small areas of moderate drought, including upcountry, where residents have been asked to trim their water use by 10 percent.
Winds should taper off with lower frequency beginning in early 2015, Kodam added. At the same time, we should expect increased frequency of high surf events but nothing like 2010.
Temperatures should begin to cool off with high pressure systems early in the year to produce some cool evenings but nothing extreme.