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Hawaiʻi hurricane season is forecasted to be slow with third consecutive La Niña year

FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2018 file photo, provided by NASA, Hurricane Lane approaches Hawaiʻi as seen from the International Space Station. (NASA via AP, File)
FILE - In this Aug. 22, 2018 file photo, provided by NASA, Hurricane Lane approaches Hawaiʻi as seen from the International Space Station. (NASA via AP, File)

The National Weather Service predicts a slower hurricane season in Hawaiʻi with two to four tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific region. A normal season usually has four or five tropical cyclones.

The weather service said Wednesday there is a 60% chance of below-normal tropical cyclone activity this year. There is only a 10% chance of an above-normal season.

Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist at the Honolulu Weather Forecast Office, says Hawaiʻi is looking at drier than average rainfall with a potential third year of La Niña conditions.

"That would mark only the third time in the last 50 years that we've had three La Niña years in a row. So with the forecast of below-average rainfall expected for the summer for the dry season, you can look for the existing drought areas that we already have in place to intensify and expand even further," Kodama said.

La Niña is a natural cooling of parts of the equatorial Pacific that alters weather patterns around the globe. The opposite El Niño pattern creates above-average ocean temperatures and has been present during some of the most active Pacific hurricane seasons, including in 2015 when there were 16 storms in the Central Pacific basin.

Officials said that even with a slow hurricane season predicted, it only takes one storm to cause a disaster.

Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center, said that people need to be prepared, regardless of the optimistic outlook.

“It only takes one wandering into the vicinity of the state to cause a tremendous amount of potential impact," he said. “Hurricane Iniki, a major hurricane, directly hit Kauaʻi 30 years ago this year, and those impacted still remember the incredible destructive power Iniki delivered."

Iniki was the last major hurricane to hit the state when it made landfall on Kauaʻi in 1992. In 2018, the massive and powerful Hurricane Lane made a last-minute turn and narrowly spared Oʻahu.

Hurricane season in Hawaiʻi lasts from June 1 until the end of November. August and September are historically active months.

There was only one named storm that entered the Central Pacific in 2021 and it did not make landfall or come close to Hawaiʻi.

Officials also gave an update on Hawaiʻi's wet and dry seasons. Kodama said the winter wet season was the 12th driest in the last 30 years and that without a major storm that dumped most of the season's rain in just a couple weeks, it would have been worse.

“It was a wild wet season to say the least, we had a lot of extremes,” Kodama said. In January, ”the tap turned off and stayed that way all the way through March."

He said that going into the summer dry season, Hawaiʻi is expected to remain in severe to extreme drought conditions, and wildfire season will likely start in June — a month earlier than usual. Leeward areas will have the highest risk.

Kauaʻi may be an outlier. It has the least amount of drought conditions and may see drier weather later in the summer.

Free copies of the "Homeowner's Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards" will be available at all Hawaiʻi public libraries while supplies last — or click here for the online version.

The Associated Press reporter Caleb Jones contributed to this report.

Zoe Dym was a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. Founded in 1846, AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
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