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Wet Winter Likely to Bring Drought Relief

By Catherine Cluett Pactol

As the western half of Molokai continues to experience extreme drought conditions, weather forecasters are predicting above average rainfall to bring some relief this wet season.

Kevin Kodama of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Honolulu office said though many parts of the state began the summer drought-free due to extra wet conditions early this year, parts of Maui County, including Molokai, were an exception to that. Maui County had a drier-than-normal wet season last winter, worsening the current drought conditions.

“[Maui County] got a head start as far as drought,” Kodama said. “By the end of September, they ended up with the worst drought conditions across the state. That has really affected agricultural operations, especially the ranching sector, where pasture conditions are extremely bad and public water supply has also been affected.”

Molokai residents have reported cattle and deer dying of thirst and lack of vegetation.

Though this wasn’t a record dry season, it ranked as the 11th driest dry season in the last 30 years, according to Kodama. The intensity of drought in people’s minds this year is partly due to it being so dry very late in the dry season, he said, combined with the fact that five of the last dry seasons in recent years have been fairly wet, making this season seem even more extreme.

Meanwhile, west Molokai is still classified as in extreme drought, or level D3, according to the national Drought Monitor map as of its last update on Oct. 22.

Rain appears to be in the forecast, however. Kodama said current La Nina conditions — a weather pattern that occurs in the Pacific Ocean that typically brings cooler conditions — will likely bring above average rainfall this winter. Stronger La Nina events can have a higher than normal trade wind frequency which will focus rainfall on windward areas, according to forecasters.

The wet season, which is considered in Hawaii to run from October through April, is starting dry but will probably start to bring rain in December, this year, said Kodama. Though it’s possible that because some areas are so dry, they won’t be able to fully recover from drought conditions even with heavier rains, he said the western part of the state from Kauai to Molokai will probably get enough rain to reach normal levels. Additionally, he explained that smaller islands like Molokai are especially likely to recover.

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