"Beautifully balmy" best describes Hawaii's weather. Plenty of sun and cooling trade winds combine for year round comfy conditions. Short, intermittent showers are "blessings." Sometimes you barely feel drops, and when you look around, you see a rainbow. Weather-wise, Hawaii surely rates a 10.
Yet, there are seasonal conditions. Temperatures drop with altitude and what's happening on one side of the island can be totally different than the list of terms to get you thru Hawaii's
Trade winds: Usually from the northeast, these breezes keep us cool. They average 12 m.p.h. and are lightest in the winter months. Trade winds are named after the winds that brought merchant ships to the islands.
Kona Winds: They come from the southeast and replace the trades typically during the winter. They often bring high humidity and rain. Kona winds should not be confused with the Kona area of the Big Island of Hawaii, which has sunny, dry weather.
Windward Side: The eastern half of all the islands are wetter and generally three degrees cooler. The trade winds hit the east side of the islands first and drop precipitation as the clouds accumulate along the peaks of the mountains. Hilo the nation's wettest city, is on the windward side of the Big Island of Hawaii and shadowed by the state's tallest mountain, Mauna Kea.
Leeward Side: The western facing sides of the islands are in the lee of the trade winds, so they're drier and warmer. Waianae Lahaina, Kekaha and Kona are all on the leeward sides of islands. Kona means "leeward" in Hawaiian and Lahaina means "cruel sun."
Mauka Showers: Mauka is Hawaiian for "inland." Mountain slopes and valleys get more rain than leeward coastal areas. It could be pouring in Kula and yet be sunny right down the road in Wailea.
Upper Elevations: Temps drop with altitude even in Hawaii. In fact, winter brings frost at elevations above 4,000 feet. Generally, dress warm if going up. The Big Island of Hawaii's Mauna Kea (White Mt.) and Mauna Loa (Long Mt.) typically have snowy summits each winter. Maui's H`aleakala occasionally gets snow. Dangerous wind conditions can.close the summit and their visitor attractions; closures are announced on TV weather reports.
Tsunami: Offshore earthquakes create these tidal waves. Coastal sirens alert the public of their approach; there have been six of over 20 feet in the last 50 years. Tsunami warning sirens are tested on the first day of each month around noon. - by Fern Gavelek
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