Hawaii is likely to go into drought this winter, with perhaps 50 percent less rainfall than normal as a stronger than usual El Nino, the warming of the Pacific Ocean around the equator, continues into next spring.
"We’re not just talking about leeward drought. It will probably manifest itself in windward areas as well," said Kevin Kodama, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service office in Honolulu. "The expectation is that there will be pretty significant drought."
Last week, the National Climate Prediction Center issued a new El Nino advisory, predicting a 90 percent chance of a significant El Nino continuing into the winter and an 80 percent chance that it will stick around through the spring of next year.
The El Nino weather phenomenon has already helped three tropical storms to form in the Central Pacific — Ela, Haloloa and Ione — in the last week. Two other tropical depressions formed in the East Pacfiic this weekend and forecasters expect the above-normal hurricane season to continue.
While there are more chances of storms during the June through November hurricane season, the El Nino will likely steer most rains in the winter to spring rainy season away from the islands.
For farmers, ranchers and homeowners who like to keep their lawns green, restaurants that like to provide water without asking to customers, and other businesses, a strong El Nino could mean cutbacks next year.
"The chance of drought goes up, the stronger the El Nino is," Kodama said.