Snowfall in Maui- Is Climate Change Inescapable?


Credit: Lance Endo

Haley Hartner, Head News Editor

Over the weekend, a winter storm covered a state park on the Hawaiian island of Maui in snow- the lowest elevation for snow ever recorded on the islands and the first time on the state park.

Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area experienced four-foot snow drifts, blanketing the area in a sheet of snow.

The National Weather Service believes the temperatures in Polipoli must have hit freezing point though, due to a lack of a sensor in the park, it has not been confirmed as to whether the island actually received snow or hail.

However, Honolulu National Weather Service meteorologist, Melissa Dye, relayed to the Huffington Post that the main island did, in fact, see snow.

“It’s just real white like ice now, so it’s just blowing around and drifting,” she confirmed.

While snow on the peaks of the volcano on the main island is common, having snow in Polipoli park is the lowest elevation ever recorded, at 6,200 feet above sea level.  

This extreme weather comes as a result of a Kona low- a situation in which a cold, low-pressure air stream creates a circular jet stream, bringing strong winds and heavy precipitation to the islands.

The storm brought temperatures to as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the state’s lowest recorded temperature of 12 degrees in 1979, in addition to 60-foot waves, and wind speeds up to 191 miles per hour, making this the strongest wind storm to ever impact the islands.

The effects of the Kona Low left many parks and beaches closed, power lines down, and vegetation damaged.

Researchers believe that the extreme weather the Hawaiian islands experienced is a result of climate change.  An increase in global temperature creates conditions that allow for extreme weather, such as record-breaking storms.

A science professor at the University of Hawaii said “there’s no place on the planet where people can expect to see conditions as they have been in the past.”

With tourism being the top industry in Hawaii and a major source of the state’s income, heavily reliant on the operation of its beaches and state parks, having more frequent extreme weather will bring major economic and agricultural issues- the weekend’s storm possibly serving as a precursor for an unfavorable future for Hawaii.