We’re up on Pacific Heights, the ridge between Nuuanu and Pauoa Valleys, looking down into Punchbowl (on a clear day). We’re hoping it weakens before it gets here, but might hit us as a Cat. 1. Heavy rains have begun, but the wind is not too bad yet.Where on Oahu are you and what is the expected path?
Hi Pete, I guess ‘tis the season. Florida does not need another one of those monster storms. I would guess you are pretty safe - hurricane-wise - up in Baltimore. Cheers! Kate
Hi Linus, Interesting, thanks. Pretty sure I’ll be gone by the end of the century. I have lived here since the early 80s and we have a few close calls every year. Price of paradise, but I hope never to see a direct hit to the densely populated parts of this island. Best, KateI thought the following article was interesting in explaining why hurricanes (technically, isn't it cyclones in the Pacific Ocean) generally do not hit Hawaii (apologies in advance to the moderators, article discusses climate change):
Hurricane Douglas made history on Monday as it skirted past Hawaii by coming closer to the island of Oahu than any hurricane in at least 60 years.www.eenews.net
Hawaii barely avoided a hurricane. Its luck is fading
Chelsea Harvey, E&E News reporterPublished: Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Hurricane Douglas is seen brushing the Hawaiian islands Sunday. Scientists say storms in the Pacific Ocean are influenced by climate change. NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System
Hurricane Douglas made history on Monday as it skirted past Hawaii by coming closer to the island of Oahu than any hurricane in at least 60 years.
The center of the storm passed 30 miles north of the island, home to Honolulu, the capital. The closest runner-up was Hurricane Dot in 1959, which came within 60 miles of Oahu.
Scientists say this kind of event could happen more often in the coming decades. Climate models suggest that hurricanes may become more active around the Hawaiian islands as the region continues to warm.
Douglas was a close call. As of Sunday evening, meteorologists were warning Hawaiian residents to prepare for a possible landfall.
In the end, the storm curved unexpectedly north and just missed the archipelago.
While Oahu has never been directly struck by the center of a hurricane — at least, not in recorded history — other Hawaiian islands have been hit. But it's an exceedingly rare event.
In fact, it's only happened twice since scientists began keeping records. Dot missed Oahu but struck Kauai in 1959, and Hurricane Iniki also struck Kauai in 1992.
While cyclones do sometimes pass close by the string of islands, bringing winds and rain, it's relatively uncommon for any of them to cause major damage.
There's a reason these events are so rare. For one thing, Hawaii is protected by a high-pressure system — a swirling atmospheric current — that helps redirect storms away from the islands.
Hawaii also sits in a dry region of the subtropics, surrounded by relatively cool waters, according to Hiroyuki Murakami, a hurricane expert with NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory. These conditions often cause hurricanes to weaken as they approach the islands, he said in an interview.
But this could be gradually changing. Multiple studies have recently suggested that the Hawaiian islands may see more hurricane activity as temperatures rise in the central Pacific over the coming decades.
A 2013 study in Nature Climate Change, led by Murakami, found that hurricanes are likely to pass by the Hawaiian islands more often at the end of summer.
That's partly because hurricanes may form more frequently in that part of the ocean in the first place, the models suggested. But a bigger factor is that cyclones moving in from other parts of the Pacific will have a shot at getting close to the islands, instead of fizzling out or being shunted to the side as they approach.
A 2015 study in the Journal of Climate, led by NOAA scientist Thomas Knutson, also found that the region around Hawaii could experience more frequent hurricanes by the end of the century.
And a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in December, also led by Murakami, came to similar conclusions. While hurricanes are actually expected to occur less frequently across large swaths of the Pacific Ocean, the central Pacific near Hawaii is an exception.
What's happening in this remote corner of the Pacific?
Warming ocean temperatures have a lot to do with it, Murakami noted. Hurricanes form more easily, and stay strong longer, over warmer waters.
"Many climate models consistently project future increase in sea surface temperatures, especially near the Hawaiian region," he said.
Climate change may also cause certain west-flowing wind systems around Hawaii, known as trade winds, to weaken, according to Murakami. These winds can weaken or break up hurricanes as they approach the islands. As they diminish, storms may be able to approach more easily.
While most modeling studies are looking decades into the future, some research suggests that climate change may already be influencing the Hawaiian hurricane season.
One study, published in a special edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, took a closer look at an unusually active Hawaiian hurricane season in 2014. Three hurricanes veered close to the Hawaiian islands that year.
Using model simulations, the study found that this active season was made substantially more likely by the influence of global warming. An El Niño event occurring that year, which caused Pacific waters to temporarily warm, likely also contributed.
The paper falls into a class of research known as attribution science, studies that investigate the influence climate change has had on an individual event, like a hurricane or a heat wave.
Murakami cautioned that no such study has been conducted for Douglas, and "we cannot say if this Hurricane Douglas is caused by global warming." As history shows, hurricanes do sometimes swing past the Hawaiian islands simply due to the right combination of good conditions at the right time.
The point is that events like Douglas are still rare today — but they may be more common in the future.
An increase in Hawaiian hurricanes is just one of many changes scientists expect for tropical cyclones as the world warms.
Other research, such as a June 2018 study published in Nature, suggests that hurricanes may be moving more slowly and dumping more rain as they go. The odds of strong hurricanes, those of a Category 3 or higher, are increasing, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in June this year. And a May 2014 report in Nature found that cyclones are beginning to move farther away from the tropics and closer to the poles.
Experts have warned that many coastal areas around the world may be at an increased risk of hurricane damage in the future. That includes places where such events were previously rare, like Hawaii.
At least you don’t have to worry about active volcanoes?Hi Linus, Interesting, thanks. Pretty sure I’ll be gone by the end of the century. I have lived here since the early 80s and we have a few close calls every year. Price of paradise, but I hope never to see a direct hit to the densely populated parts of this island. Best, Kate