Climate of Maui
Climate of Maui:
The climate of Hawaii is ideal every day of the year -- it's summer in Hawaii all winter long!
The climate is a big draw for tourists to Maui, with mild temperatures, low rainfall, and generally sunny conditions in the leeward resort areas of Lahaina, Kaanapali, Kihei and Wailea.
In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the Hawaiian Islands are far west of and just south of the United States, but north of the equator 1,300 to 1,500 miles (between 19 and 22 degrees of latitude, roughly similar to Cuba in the Caribbean Sea).
Hawaii is called a “tropical paradise” because its climate makes people feel comfortable every day of the year.
Hawaii's combination of sunshine, temperature, humidity and breeze all vary within the limits of human comfort.
The ideal comfort range for people is between 70-82 degrees F and 50 % humidity -- which also describes Hawaii perfectly!
In winter the human body actually adjusts somewhat to the different seasons by feeling as comfortable when the temperature is five degrees cooler than the summer comfort level. And Hawaii averages six degrees cooler in the Hawaiian winter than the summer, which makes Hawaii feel just as comfortable in winter as in summer.
So Hawaii truly is a semi-tropical paradise, unlike many other islands falsely labeled a "tropical paradise", where it actually feels quite uncomfortable with very hot temperatures in the nineties and sweltering humidity in the nineties percentage.
"But Nature is always stingy of perfect climates," said Mark Twain in his book Following the Equator.
IN GENERAL, the Hawaiian climate is characterized by
• a two-season year
• mild and fairly uniform warm temperature conditions everywhere -- except cooler at high elevations
• striking geographic differences in amounts of rainfall
• generally somewhat humid conditions and high cloudiness -- except at high elevations and at the resort areas on the driest coasts
• a general prevalence of trade-winds, especially at elevations below a few thousand feet.
CLIMATE in Hawaii is perfect all year.
Hawaii WEATHER can vary sometimes, especially with storms in the winter.
BEST TIMES TO VACATION ON MAUI WEATHER-WISE
SUMMER season of five months (May through September) has the best warm beach weather and the fewest storms. During Maui summer the temperature is ideal in the shade; and in the sun of early morning & late afternoon, and at night.
WINTER season of seven months (October through April) is ideal in the dry resort areas of Lahaina and Wailea (which can be a little too hot in the summer). During Maui winter the temperature is ideal in the sunshine during the day, but the beaches can sometimes be a little too cool and windy or rainy to be ideal.
As explained below:
MILD WARM TEMPERATURES
An outstanding feature of the climate of Hawaii is the small annual temperature range. In downtown Honolulu the warmest month is August, with an average temperature of about 78 F the coldest, February, around 72 F – the range between the coldest and warmest months averages only 6 degrees F.
Seasonal changes in temperature are slight throughout much of Hawaii. This is partly because of the virtually constant flow of fresh ocean air across the islands, especially with the location of Hawaii in mid-ocean. The temperature of the ocean surface varies comparatively little from season to season, and so does the temperature of air that has moved great distances across the ocean. So the air brings with it to the Hawaiian islands the mild temperature characteristic of the surrounding ocean.
The surface waters of the open ocean around Hawaii have an average temperature that ranges from a minimum of 73 or 74 F between late February and early April to a maximum of 79 or 80 F in late September or early October. With temperatures almost as mild for hundreds of miles around, even to the north – the air that reaches Hawaii is neither very hot nor cold.
In the dry leeward areas like Lahaina and Wailea, temperatures in the low 90’s may be reached on several days during the year, but temperatures higher than these are unusual. In these dry areas as throughout Hawaii, August and September are the warmest months of the year.
Lowest on record have been in the 50’s in winter at elevations below 1,000 feet, or rarely in the high 40’s in dry leeward areas. These are extreme values, and it is possible for several years to pass before temperatures near 50 F are experienced in any locality near sea level.
Humidity is frequently between 50 to 55 percent in the drier, warmer coastal resort zones, (but seldom falls below 40 percent).
In leeward resort areas of Kaanapali and Wailea well screened from the trade winds, along the west coasts of Maui, the percentage of clear daylight conditions ranges from 30 to 60 percent and cloudy conditions are less than 20 percent of the time.
Leeward coasts and lowlands are actually sunnier than the foregoing percentages suggest, since a large part of the reported sky cover consists of clouds which lie over the mountains to windward, but may not obscure the sun or the sky directly overhead.
So at Maui’s resort beaches, in the morning the sun may be behind the clouds over the mountains to the east, but by afternoon the sun usually moves from behind the clouds over the mountains and out over the clear skies above the beaches and ocean until sunset.
These leeward areas – which are less affected by summer trade-wind cloudiness – tend to be cloudier during the winter, when storms are more frequent.
Showers are very common; yet while some of these are very heavy, the vast majority are very light and brief – a sudden sprinkle of rain and that is all.
In the lowlands at all times of the year, rainfall is most likely to occur during the nighttime or in the morning hours and least likely to occur during midafternoon.
In summer most rainfall consists of trade-winds showers, and these showers are most apt to occur at night. In the dry leeward areas occasional light trade-wind showers may drift from the mountains downwind over the resort beaches.
In winter most of the rainfall in the lowlands occurs in storms, and these are as likely to take place during the daytime as at night.
In most parts of the tropics rainfall is highly variable from one year to another and Hawaii is no exception. Rainfall variability is far greater during the winter, when occasional storms contribute appreciably to rainfall totals, than during summer, when trade-wind showers provide most of the rain.
Trade-wind breezes lower apparent temperatures of warmer days, making conditions far more pleasant than the temperature and humidity would indicate.
With moderate trade winds, for example, temperatures of 80° F or above occur less than one-half of one percent of the time under conditions when the humidity is as high as 70 percent.
August, September, October and November are the only months when temperatures of 80° F occur more than once percent of the time.
The trade winds blow across Hawaii during May through September 80 to 95 percent of the time. From October through April, when the heart of the trade winds are south of Hawaii, the trades still blow across the islands 50 to 80 percent of the time.
Average wind speeds are highest during the summer trade-wind period over the ocean around Hawaii. During the summer months (May through September) wind speeds over the ocean exceed 12 miles per hour 50 percent of the time. Eighty to 95 percent of the time these winds are from the northeast quadrant.
(Trade-winds were so-named in sailing days because they blew regularly enough from one direction to enable sailing trade ships to reach their destinations.)
Winter is the time of occasional very strong winds – winds stronger than those experienced during the summer (except with the rare occurrence of a tropical storm or hurricane in the summer).
Non-trade-wind conditions are quite different. When the winds are light and variable, moist air may move slowly onto the islands, typically from the southeast or south or southwest.
Vog is volcanic smog from the volcano on the Big Island to the south that regularly drifts north to Maui, whenever the northeast trade winds stop blowing. The amount of vog is equal to the emissions from 300 power plants produced per day since the volcano restarted erupting in 1987.
The vog’s suspended tiny particles are sometimes so thick that they blot out the views of Lanai and Molokai from Maui, and also hold in the heat of the sun resulting in hot days on Maui and possible difficulties for anyone with breathing problems.
The temperature of the water around Hawaii is ideal for swimming, with an average temperature that ranges from a minimum of 73 or 74 F between late February and early April to a maximum of 79 or 80 F in late September or early October.
The native Hawaiians recognized only two seasons.
Summer is the season when the sun is directly or almost directly overhead, the weather is warmer, and the trade winds are most reliable. The summer season is five months long (May through September). Summer is very definitely the warmer season, the season with an overwhelming prevalence of trade winds, and the season when widespread rainstorms are rare. Also summer is the drier season in terms of average monthly rainfall.
The summers are warm but not hot, so that air conditioning is a luxury rather than a necessity – although most new hotels and businesses have central air conditioning.
Winter is the season when the sun is in the south, the weather is cooler, and the trade winds are most often interrupted by other winds. The winter season is seven months long (October through April).
Major storms are chiefly events of the winter season. Major storms occur most frequently between October and March. During this period there may be two, three or even as many as six or seven major storms in any particular year. Such storms typically bring heavy rains, sometimes with very high winds from any direction.
Wind speeds resulting from these storms have on several occasions exceeded 60 MPH over a period of one to two minutes, and 80 MPH momentarily in gusts. In any major, wind-producing storm extreme wind speeds may vary radically from one place to another, due to the peculiarities of the storm and to the effects of terrain. It is not unusual to have maximum speeds of only 35 to 40 MPH in one locality and much higher speeds in a restricted area only a few miles away.
Storms, either minor or major, usually occur during a breakdown in the trade-winds from the northeast.
Kona storms occur during the winter season. They are so-called because they often bring winds from the south (called kona in Hawaiian), unlike the more usual trade wind storms from the northeast. The term is now increasingly applied by the local public any widespread rainstorm accompanied by winds from a direction other than that of the trade winds. Kona storms bring rain to the usually sheltered and dry south–facing resort areas of Lahaina and Wailea.
The rainfall in a Kona storm is more widespread and more prolonged than in the usual cold-front storm -- but not as strong as the in the more extreme winds of the cold front storms.
Usually there are one or two Kona storms a year, and sometimes there are four or five. Although an entire winter may pass without a single Kona storm.
Kona rains last from several hours to several days. The rains may continue steadily, but the longer lasting ones are characteristically interrupted by intervals of lighter rain or even partial clearing, as well as by intense showers bursts.
Torrential rains, falling on Hawaii’s steep slopes and small drainage basins, often generate flash floods that erode fields and cause landslides and damage to homes.
MICROCLIMATES on Maui
The climate on Maui is perfect all year, but weather varies locally.
Maui’s two high mountains shield its west and south coasts from the numerous winter storms that come from the northeast, resulting in near-perfect weather in the beach areas of Kaanapali and Wailea. There dry weather prevails except for occasional light trade wind showers which drift over the mountains from windward.
On Maui you can find some place sunny almost always -- because the mountains block the clouds and rain.
On Maui the saying is, "If you don't like the weather, just drive five miles!"
West Maui Microclimates
If it is raining and windy at your hotel in Kapalua (where it often rains in winter), you can drive four miles south to Kaanapali where it's usually sunny.
But if it’s cloudy there, you can drive four more miles south to the town of Lahaina [which means ‘Relentless Sun’] where it is sunny and balmy virtually every day of the year because the mountain shields it from storms. This may be why the Hawaiian royalty chose to live in Lahaina, which is very dry and relatively free of clouds.
The west Maui resorts sit at the base of the West Maui Mountains that are 5,000 feet high, which is high enough to block most storms, and cause these West Maui Microclimates.
South Maui Microclimates
South Maui resorts sit at the base of Haleakala mountain, which is 10,000 feet high, high and massive enough to block virtually all storms.
If it is raining and windy at your hotel in Kihei, you can drive four miles south to Wailea, and if it’s not raining there but is cloudy, you can drive four more miles south to the area called Makena, where it sunny and calm virtually every day of the year.
The most striking weather contrasts on Maui are in amounts of rainfall.
LITTLE RAINFALL – Some areas average 20 inches and less annually, in south and western leeward coastal resort areas behind the two very high mountains, at one extreme.
MUCH RAINFALL -- Other areas exceed 300 inches annual average, along the north and eastern lower windward slopes of these high mountains, at the other extreme.
SNOW AND ICE
Between October and May, major storms may deposit a foot or more of snow on the upper slopes of Maui’s highest mountain at 10,000 feet, Haleakala. But the snow quickly vanishes, since even winter air temperatures in Hawaii are ordinarily above freezing.
True hurricanes are very rare in Hawaii, indicated by the fact that only four have affected the islands during a 63-year period. But hurricanes may pass close enough to the islands to produce heavy rains, high winds, and big waves upon the coasts.
Tropical storms are more frequent. These are similar to hurricanes but with more modest winds, below 74 MPH. On the average, a tropical storm will pass sufficiently close to Hawaii every year or two to affect the weather in some part of the Islands.
Unlike cold front and Kona storms, hurricanes and tropical storms are not limited to the winter season. They are most likely to occur during the last half of the year, from July through December.
Rare Violent Winds on Maui
Hawaii Climate -- Complete Official Description.
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