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Today's Featured Story: Hawaii Weather Is All About Location, Location

July 15, 2011

By WeatherBug Sr. Meteorologist, James West

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Hawaii, the U.S. 50 th state, offers great weather no matter what time of year you visit. However, the islands do offer a few surprises.

Hawaii, located in the tropical central Pacific, has two seasons, a dry and wet one. The summer half of the year from May to October is drier than the winter half running from October to April.

However, it is not the season, but the island`s local terrain that drives where it will rain or be sunny. Hawaii, comprised of hundreds of islands extending 1,500 miles across the central Pacific, was created by volcanoes. The southeastern most island, Hawaii or the Big Island, is the only location with active volcanoes, currently erupting Kilauea and idle Mauna Loa and Hualalai. The volcanic origins make every Hawaii Island, including the chains main eight islands, very mountainous.

The tropical trade winds, strongest during the summer months, flow out of the northeast from a nearly permanent high well north of Hawaii. This wind picks up tropical moisture from the Pacific, moves ashore and on most islands, is pushed skyward by the volcanic origin steep slopes.

The rising tropical air quickly forms into clouds and produces quick hitting tropic showers and downpours, feeding lush rainforests on the state`s windward slopes.

The leeward-side of the islands, which are generally on the islands western and southwestern side, is much drier and arid, with less vegetation. These locations get most of their annual rainfall during the winter half of the year, when a storm rolling off the Pacific can produce several days of rain, gale-force wind gusts and battering waves. The dry season is usually sunny.

Tourists visiting Honolulu, the state`s capital and biggest city, could drive an hour east and see rainforest or drive west to see more barren locations. This is true of many of the islands.

Hawaii is in the tropics and is surrounded by water, so wild temperatures swings are uncommon. Most locations near sea-level will see temperatures in the low to mid-70s at night, low to mid-80s during the day. The late-summer months of August and September could see temperatures in the low 90s and a few days in February and March could see temperatures dip into the 60s. Summer attire is a must no matter what time of the year a visit is made.

Although the weather sounds perfect, Hawaii does have a few surprises. Its high volcanic peaks, which can reach elevations in excess of 10,000 feet, can see temperatures that fall below freezing at night in the winter months. The lowest temperature ever recorded in the state was 12 degrees at an elevation of 13,770 feet on Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii. Snow even falls atop a few peaks during winter. Jackets, sweaters and long pants should be packed if plans call for trips up into Hawaii`s picturesque peaks and volcanoes.

The risk of hurricanes hitting Hawaii is low. The last major hurricane to hit the island directly was 1992 Iniki, which caused almost $2 billion in damage. Several tropical systems passed near the island over the last decade, all of them weakening well before passing the island chain.

Hawaii is a tropical paradise that offers nice weather year around. Consider saying Aloha to the 50 th state when planning your next U.S. vacation.

Source: National Weather Service Data

Story Image: The sunset in Maui. Submitted By WeatherBug user Leigh Ann Staley.

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