A mountain range with clouds above it

A recent study by UH Mānoa scientists documents a decrease in northeast trade winds that could fundamentally change Hawaiʻi’s overall climate. (Photo courtesy SOEST)

Scientists at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa have observed a decrease in the frequency of northeast trade winds and an increase in eastern trade winds over the past nearly four decades, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research.

For example, northeast trade wind days, which occurred 291 days per year 37 years ago at the Honolulu International Airport, now only occur 210 days per year.

Jessica Garza, a meteorology graduate assistant at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, Pao-Shin Chu, meteorology professor and head of the Hawaiʻi State Climate Office; Chase Norton and Thomas Schroeder analyzed 37 years of wind speed and direction, and sea level pressure data from land-based weather stations, buoys and reanalysis data.

Persistent northeast trade winds are important to the Hawaiian Islands because they affect wave height, cloud formation, and precipitation over specific areas of the region. When trades fail to develop the air can become dormant and unpleasant weather can develop.

Furthermore, Chu explained that the trades are the primary source of moisture for rain, and that a dramatic reduction could fundamentally change Hawaiʻi’s overall climate.

Read more about their research as featured in Civil Beat, Hawaii News Now, Honolulu Star-Advertiser (subscription required), Maui Time, Our Amazing Planet, Raising Islands, RedOrbit, and Science Daily.

UH in the News for October 12–18, 2012

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