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March 2014 Precipitation Summary
State of Hawaii
MONTH: March 2014
PREPARED: April 4, 2014
Note: This summary uses the arithmetic mean, or average, for “normal” rainfall values.
State: [Text data table for rain gages]
A prolonged period of disrupted trade winds continued into early March over the State of Hawaii. Two cold fronts reached the island chain during this period, one on March 2 and 3, and another system on March 7 and 8. Both fronts were able to push across the entire state which brought welcome rainfall to the leeward areas of the Big Island and Maui. Rainfall totals during these frontal passages were mostly less than an inch, though there were a few spots with totals in the range of 1 to 3 inches.
By March 11, trade winds finally became reestablished across the main Hawaiian Islands. The only break in the trades for the rest of the month occurred on March 26 through 29 as a surface low pressure trough was induced by a strong upper level low pressure system. This low pressure system produced unstable conditions which resulted in spotty but intense rainfall in all the counties, and small hail, locally gusty winds, and funnel clouds in several locations. In one of the intense showers, a rain gage in Manoa Valley recorded 0.40 inches in just 5 minutes. Although rain rates were high, the showers and thunderstorms were generally short-lived and mobile which prevented significant flooding from occurring.
While the most spectacular weather occurred in the March 26 – 29 event, the most significant rainfall accumulations took place during the previous week as an upper level low pressure trough tapped into low level moisture from a cold front remnant embedded within the trade winds. Persistent, terrain-enhanced rainfall along the windward Hamakua slopes elevated stream levels in Waipio Valley on March 21 through 24 which stranded several hikers who were later rescued by fire department personnel. Taro crops growing within the flood plain were also inundated. A gage sampling the headwaters region of the valley recorded nearly 22 inches of rainfall in the 4-day period.
Island of Kauai : [March 2014 map] [year-to-date map]
Many of the gages on Kauai recorded below average rainfall totals for the month of March. The U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Mount Waialeale gage had the highest monthly total of 19.64 inches (52 percent of average). However, this also represented the lowest March total since 2003. Mount Waialeale also had the highest daily total of 3.30 inches on March 9 during moist, post-frontal conditions. Most of the remaining locations on the island had monthly totals in the range of 30 to 60 percent of average.
Rainfall totals for 2014 through the end of March fell into the near to above average range at most of the Kauai gages. The 54.36 inches (113 percent of average) from the USGS’ Kilohana gage was still Kauai’s highest year-to-date total but it dropped to fourth highest in the state.
Island of Oahu: [March 2014 map] [year-to-date map]
Near to above average monthly rainfall totals were recorded by most of the rain gages on Oahu during March. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oahu Forest National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) gage had the highest monthly total of 29.94 inches (159 percent of average) while the USGS’ Moanalua RG1 site had the highest daily total of 8.59 inches on March 26. Heavy rainfall at the Moanalua RG1 site exceeded 0.75 inches in a 15-minute sampling period 3 times between 4 AM and 9 AM HST on March 26, which is a rate of more than 3 inches per hour.
Most of the gages on Oahu had near to above average rainfall for 2014 through the end of March. The Oahu Forest NWR gage had the highest year-to-date total of 60.75 inches (117 percent of average) and moved up to second wettest so far in 2014. The small number of below average rainfall locations were mainly in the Waianae area.
Maui County: [Maui March 2014 map] [year-to-date map] [Molokai/Lanai March 2014 map] [year-to-date map]
Almost all of the rain gages in Maui County posted above average monthly rainfall totals. The USGS gage on top of Puu Kukui had its wettest March since 2004 with 59.46 inches (156 percent of average). It also recorded the highest daily total of 10.16 inches on March 22 as a result of enhanced trade wind shower conditions. The gages at Ulupalakua Ranch, Kula Branch Station, and Kahului Airport all had their highest March rainfall totals since 2006.
Maui County rainfall totals for 2014 through the end of March fell into the near to above average range at most of the gages. The Puu Kukui total of 85.04 inches (89 percent of average) led all year-to-date totals statewide.
Island of Hawaii: [March 2014 map] [year-to-date map]
Most of the gages on the Big Island recorded near to above average rainfall totals for the month of March. The USGS’ gage at Kawainui Stream had the highest monthly total of 43.43 inches (262 percent of average) and the highest daily total of 7.90 inches on March 23. Two sites, Kamuela (14.52 inches) and Honokaa (35.60 inches) posted their highest March totals since 2004. Hilo Airport’s 18.73 inches marked the wettest March since 2009.
Most of the gages on the Big Island had 2014 rainfall totals through the end of March in the near to above average range. The below average sites were mainly on the windward slopes with dry conditions resulting from the lack of trade winds in February. The rain gage at Kawainui Stream had the highest year-to-date total of 56.31 inches (142 percent of average) which was third highest in the state.
Data Sources: Data used in this report are largely from National Weather Service sources including climate network weather observation stations at Lihue, Honolulu, Kahului, and Hilo, the Hydronet state network of automated rain gages, and selected Cooperative Observer sites. Additional data come from automated rain gages operated by the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. National Park Service, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Averages come from the National Climatic Data Center (1981-2010 series) and the Rainfall Atlas of Hawaii (http://rainfall.geography.hawaii.edu/). Data presented here are not certified and should be used for informational purposes only.
Kevin R. Kodama
Senior Service Hydrologist
NOAA/NWS Weather Forecast Office Honolulu