LIHUE — Hawaii’s rainy season has been lacking something it usually has plenty of: Rain.
Winter usually means days of downpours on the Garden Isle. But December and January, in many areas, were pretty dry. In fact, Kauai is currently listed at D-0 on the U.S. Drought Monitor, one level below moderate drought conditions.
“Abnormally dry but we’re not seeing noticeable drought impacts yet,” said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu.
And the dry weather is keeping people outside.
Joe Bunao, a supervisor at Kauai Lagoons Golf Club in Lihue, said December through February are typically good for business at the course. So far this winter, however, the dry weather has kept business booming.
“It’s definitely better than last year,” he said.
In Hawaii, a strong El Niño may cause a strong high-pressure ridge to sit over the islands and rainfall to be sharply below normal. A weak El Niño, however, will allow parts of the winter to be wet and rainy.
“Since October we have been resembling El Niño,” Kodama said.
In January, 1.16 inches of rain fell at the Lihue Airport, far below the 3.75 inch average for the month of January. It rained only three days at that location last month.
During December, a large part of Kauai saw below average totals. At Lihue Airport, 1.4 inches fell — 27 percent of average. The lowest total that month belonged to Waimea Heights, where 0.46 inches, 13 percent of average, fell.
As for 2014 as a whole, most areas finished the year with near to above average rainfall totals, according to NWS. However, Mount Waialeale — known as one of the wettest spots on Earth — was an exception.
The U.S. Geological Survey gauge on Waialeale recorded 267.35 inches of rain. While still the highest rainfall total in the state, that is 68 percent of 393.85 inch annual average, and the lowest annual total at the site since 1993, when 244.36 inches fell.
“The 30-year running average of 369.08 inches was also the lowest on record and marked the eighth consecutive year where the running average has decreased,” the NWS precipitation summary.
Other areas on Kauai, specifically the northwestern quadrant of the island, recorded near to above average rainfall.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Kilohana rain gauge had the highest December total of 41.85 inches (246 percent of average), which was nearly twice the amount recorded by the Mount Waialeale gauge (20.98 inches, 70 percent of average), according to a NWS precipitation summary. During the four-day period from Dec. 21 through 24, the Kilohana gauge recorded 30.11 inches with a maximum daily total of 12.84 inches on Dec. 23.
Kokee’s total of 27.20 inches —286 percent of average — was the highest December total since 2007 and marked the second highest December total in a data record going back to 1991.
The dry winter comes on the heels of a wetter than usual summer. May through September was the wettest in 30 years, with above average rainfall statewide.
As for what to expect during the remainder of the rainy season, which begins in October and ends in April, Kodama said “more of the same.”