May 01, 2017

Record Cold and Unprecedented Trough Hits Hawaii

As a meteorologist on the Pacific coast, I have a lot of interest in the meteorology of Hawaii, so when my colleague at the University of Hawaii, Professor Steve Businger, emailed about extraordinary events there, I had to check it out.

A cold wave and flooding has hit paradise, associated with an extraordinarily sharp, intense trough of low pressure.  To illustrate, here are the 500 hPa heights (think of this like pressure at around 18,000 ft) for Saturday and Sunday morning at 5 AM.  The circular red area near Hawaii is a strong low pressure center that broke off from the main midlatitude jet stream.  Very unusual.

How unusual?  Using the wonderful weather graphics available from the WeatherBell web site, here are the 500 hPa heights and standardized anomalies for Saturday at 11 PM and  Sunday at 5 AM.  Standardized anomalies start with the difference of the heights from normal (the anomaly) and divides that by the standard deviation (also known as sigma, a measure of historical variability).   Amazingly, the normalized anomalies near the low center are around 6.5 sigma.
 That means it is so unusual that it never happened before in the historical record.

This amazing trough was associated with a cold front passage over the island and heavy rain, with flash floods forecast for Maui and the Big Island.

Honolulu dropped to 61F on Sunday morning, a record low for the date, and fresh snow fell over the summit of Mauna Kea, on the Big Island.

An infrared satellite image for 5 PM PDT Sunday, shows extensive clouds over the entire Hawaii area due to the upper level trough.

During the past few days, there was been 3-7 inches of rain over Maui and the last 24h has brought several includes to the Big Island, including the normally dry Kona coast (the SW side of the island).  This kind of situation is also known as a Kona Low, because the Kona area gets wet in unusual southerly flow.

Fortunately for vacationers and local Hawaii residents, the unusual trough is weakening and moving south, and normal weather, including the return of the easterly trade winds, is expected.


  1. Thanks for this Cliff. We are on our sailboat at anchor off Lahaina. It's been wild and cold; I slept with a blanket for two nights, something I haven't done for a year. We are leaving Kauai for Olympia in late June. I don't trust the north Pacific before then.

    Love your blog.

    Brandon and Virginia Ford
    SV Oceanus, 1971 Columbia 43
    lying Mala Wharf, Maui

  2. Hey Cliff, wanted to hijack this thread to ask whether you've looked at the model instabilities and CAPE values for the lowlands on Thursday afternoon/evening. I would imagine most forecasters are in "believe it when I see it" mode, but even if the actual numbers turn out to be half of what the models forecast, widespread and rather strong thunderstorms still seem like a good bet.

    Hoping you have time for a blog post on the topic. Thanks!

  3. Hi Cliff. I've been viewing your blogs for several years and you do a great job! I love your insight. I saw this event with Hawaii shaping up on satellite and I couldn't believe it...very strange. I don't subscribe to the global climate change/(word of the year) religion. I'm an amateur meteorologist and weather/climate fascinates me. I think this has more to do with global cooling. Lowest sunspot count in 100 years and headed into solar minimum. Not to mention weakest solar maximum in 100 years. I think it's only going to get stranger. In modern times, we've never witnessed such strange events. I like to monitor world weather events on and the cold this Spring on Italy's vineyards has me concerned. Keep up the great work and remember God gave us a brain for a good reason (to use it). Thanks Cliff, -Wes in Colorado

  4. Wharmon2 & Cliff

    XKCD posted this graphic last September showing the average Earth temperature since the last Ice Age. It shows gradual changes in temperature from 20,000 BCE until just after 1900 and a steep increase in temperature since the mid-20th century. Is the graphic accurate?

  5. Off-Topic wrt Hawaii, but I am looking forward to a write-up about the two-day heat wave/thunderstorm spectacular we are about to have here in Seattle. I love thunderstorms.

  6. Dave, Yes, I am rooting for a continental-style thunderstorm... we don't get many! Wondering how it can be 75 degrees and cloudy this time of year.

  7. We are heading into a cool period similar to the late 1940s through the early 1970s. It will be fun to watch the global warming cult deal with it.

  8. Hmmm....nothing to see here right? As the Sun moves into its cooling phase and the cosmic rays begin to bombard our planet, increased cloud cover and therefore cooling temps will prevail...nothing to see here in Hawaii though...just a once in a historical record event...hmmm

  9. And thank you Wes...finally someone speaking and using their 5 senses!

  10. We're on the big island and it was, indeed, a rainy, cooler weekend. A couple thunderstorms passed by as well. Not too much in the way of wind - we drove out to the southern coast to watch the storm and were a tad disappointed - just a normal level of beautiful waves crashing on magnificent lava structures :-)

    Watching the radar, Oahu got even more rain than us from the Kona low. An interesting weather weekend all around.

  11. Hawaii Is doomed! It is the coming of the next ice age! Oh-no!

  12. @wharmon29 - It's nice to find others that have done a little research to find out why things are happening as they have this past year.

    I find it a little humorous but a bit concerning how so many folks are completely ignoring the possibility that they have been duped by the AGW crowd. Please look at some of this year's past events and understand that these are NOT occurring as a result of AGW or "climate change" as per the AGW's definition of climate change.

    Look at the false spring that hit S. Carolina and wiped out much of the peach crop for this year from the area.

    Look at the continued snow and cold temps that have hit much of the western USA.

    Look at the 12" of snow that just shut down the Climate March in Denver Co. last weekend.

    Look at the winter blizzard that just hit the midwest that will raise the price of wheat substantially.

    Look at the latest opening of Highway 20 - North Cascades Highway. Not just due to the amount of snow this year but the colder temps that have delayed the melt.

    In late April, it was been so cold in Switzerland that farmers there have introduced frost protection with fire buckets in Swiss vineyards during the night to protect the vines against the deadly frost.

    The unusual cold weather and heavy snow downed trees and created travel chaos in eastern Europe as nations from Romania to Moldova and Ukraine were the latest countries to experience the false spring of 2017.

    Wake up folks. You have been duped and now we are facing a Grand Solar Minimum and no one wants to believe that it will cool our earth because every year we hear that this year is the hottest year on record. Use your brain and do some research instead accepting the popular belief that there is no possibility of Global Cooling. There are many physicists, scientist and climatologists that say that this is exactly what is happening. Some of these scientists are from MIT. The 97% consensus is utter nonsense.

    1. Thank you @Paul @J I'm originally from the "Show-Me" state and I don't believe anything big NOAA or big (whoever the leader of climate change religion is). I do believe in what my senses can discern from satellite and non-biased temp. recording. There are a great deal of weather scientists out there who (in secret) question what they are supposed to believe (AGW) because they'd be shunned if they didn't. It takes a lot of guts to speak up for what you think (in past ages, people have been hung, burned at the stake, guillotined, for having ideas that were not mainstream (for the sheeple). Cliff...your blog is most excellent. I won't stop viewing anytime soon.

  13. Wow. Can't wait for a new post. This one went wacko.

  14. @ Paul - The average date of last snowfall in Denver is April 26th. 2.4 inches was recorded at KDEN on the 29th. It was a typical event. Don't just throw out random cold weather events without including context about how anomalous they are or are not.

    I am interested to see evidence that backs up your claim that the 97% consensus is nonsense. What is it instead, maybe 90%?

  15. It seems that as soon as you report on some cooler weather, the Global Cooling "advocates" come out to "educate" us.

    This confusion between weather and short-term climate variation and long-term climate change is challenging for some. Or why global temperatures can continue to increase despite some localities having unusually cold weather for a period of time.

    Things get crazy when a planetary-scope system is destabilizing.

  16. The consensus is 47%.

    But it doesn't much matter what the consensus is. I included it solely to answer the question without evasion. In reality, there are many RECENT cases of the "scientific consensus" being overurned. Here's one close to home. It's a great story.

    The great mistake made by the AGW cult was to coalesce around a single hypothesis too soon. They became wedded to it for funding, and found it impossible to back away even as contrary evidence accumulated. They should have heeded T.C. Chamberlin. Now it's too late. AGW will come tumbling down for all to see, but the groupthink and outright chicanery has been so strong that the damage to science in general and environmentalism in particular is going to be very large.

  17. Matt. You mean it didn't go to your preconceived views. Recheck your premises. Science isn't about preconceived views. The data leads where it may. Read up on sunspots and the solar cycles and their current states.

  18. One releases sequestered carbon and one has a potential for more heat to be trapped.

    Lots of complexity with climates variables.. BUT one must keep simple facts simple.

    More atmospheric carbon, means more avalible heat trapped.

    Simple science, one can not argue.

    Now, will the planet warm or cool in a linear fashion? Likely not, many many variables, and speculative science.

    Heck, a grand solar minumum, along with a big volcanic eruption, and say toss in a small comet striking Earth would put an end to the trend of warming.

    However, fact is fact. More carbon in the atmosphere means more trapped available heat.

    Go ahead and debate wether that is good, bad or indifferent.

    Won't even complicate things with real heat trapping gasses, like methane from cattle,.and melting polar deposits.

    The fact that climate change is not very predictable, is why our species should error on the side of caution.!!!


  19. This is NOT normal. And this is not just a few isolated events over the past couple years. This will continue for years to come. Consider what it will be like if this continues.

    As far as the bogus 97% consensus. In short, it should have been 100% of the scientists because the UN's IPCC hand picked 100% of them. The Heartland Institute alone has a list of 37000+ scientists that say that AGW doesn't exist. I'm thinking that would put a dent in the 97% number. It's just propaganda or as we call it in the US; Public Relations.

    Professor Mass- Skiing and your blog is what made me obsessed with climate and weather. Thank you for doing what you do. You do it so well!

  20. @Placeholder - thanks for the link on the consensus! Good stuff! I hadn't seen that one. You have to dig to find so much of this stuff. So sad that the truth isn't the norm.

  21. @ Sam Brittman - Another good article about the bogus consensus.

  22. It's cold everywhere, but the AGW cult still can't see the forest for the trees. FOLLOW THE MONEY people! It'a all about the Manischewitz cycle and it's clear that we are entering a period of extreme cold and possibly another glacial maxim. LOOK AT SUNSPOTS PEOPLE!!! The grapes are dying Hawaii and think about the children!!! Volcanoes are the key. Hawaii, volcanoes, coincidence? HMMMM.

  23. Hmm, normal to see a blizzard this intense at the end of April across the Great Plains heh? Check out wheat prices...nothing to see here...these aren't the droids you're looking for right?

  24. Hey John Marshall, here's a nice article for you.


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

Undergraduate Scholarship Fund in Honor of Steve Pool

Steve Pool was a leading television meteorologist in Seattle for nearly 40 years..... but he was so much more. In addition to providing mete...