An updated El Nino forecast that predicts a 95 percent chance of warmer ocean temperatures through the winter means Hawaii can expect an increased chance of hurricanes, and muggy weather and hotter-than-usual temperatures for several months.
Robert Ballard, the science and operations officer for the National Weather Service in Honolulu, said hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30, but the unusually strong El Nino means ocean temperatures around Hawaii will remain higher than normal and conditions that can lead to the formation of tropical cyclones will continue even after the official end of the season.
“That (Nov. 30) is not a magic date when you have El Nino,” Ballard said.
There have already been nine named storms in the Central Pacific since hurricane season began in May and there’s no sign the busy storm season will let up.
In addition to a busier-than-normal hurricane season, El Nino will also likely mean the hot and humid weather of the last several weeks will likely continue into November and possibly into December; and Hawaii will have a drier-than-normal winter, which will likely lead to drought, Ballard said.
“The water temperatures are going to continue to be above normal, so that is likely to keep us warmer and more humid than normal as we head into the warmest months (September and October),” Ballard said. “As we head into winter, we’ll probably see long periods where we won’t have trades. … It won’t be that way every day, but the trend is going to be warmer and more humid than usual.”
The dry summer season has already been wetter than normal, but that won’t likely make up for the lack of rain expected through the winter, Ballard said.
“A lot of the (recent) intense rainfall has been runoff,” Ballard said. “If the water’s running off, it’s not soaking in.”
The weather service is already warning farmers, ranchers and those who depend on catchment for drinking water to prepare for a dry winter. A dry winter could also lead to a more active fire season in the spring and next summer.
“It (sunny skies) is good Hawaii Visitors Bureau weather, but not for those who depend on rain,” Ballard said.
On Thursday, federal forecasters upgraded this year’s El Nino from moderate to strong status, but said it’s probably not a record breaker.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of the federal Climate Prediction Center, said the current worldwide weather shifting event doesn’t match the monster El Nino of 1997-1998. Still, the waters in the Central Pacific in August were the warmest in more than 17 years. So far the current El Nino is the third-strongest on record, behind 1997-98 and a weird one in 1987-88 that peaked early.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.