Drought-free Hawaii? What the wet weather could mean for agriculture

Local News

Hawaii is drought-free, according to the National Weather Service, and it’s thanks to all the rain we’ve been seeing.

But is all the wet weather a good or bad thing for the islands?

“Overall, it’s a good thing,” National Weather Service lead forecaster Derek Wroe said. “We like to see rainfall. There’s time when we get, especially here in Hawaii, sometimes we get too much rainfall too fast. That’s where we get flash flooding and then nobody likes to see that including the agriculture industry. Just too much water, it can be harmful.”

There is a definite upside to the extra rain.

“We like to be in a wetter pattern, because then we get to recharge our aquifer,” Wroe explained. “People are relying less on the ground water and also pasture land is better, because the grazing opportunity is better for ranching too.”

In fact, there’s been so much precipitation that the entire state is officially drought-free.

U.S. Drought Monitor map

“We haven’t seen a time with no drought listing for quite some time,” Wroe said. “It’s been since November of 2015 since we’ve been drought-free over every island, so it’s been a while.”

How has all the rain affected the agriculture industry?

Ken Love, executive director of the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers in Kona on Hawaii island, couldn’t be happier about it.

“I mean, people are dancing and singing when it rains,” Love said. “It’s been a long time coming. We’ve had little bouts of water here and there, but nothing that’s been consistent enough to help the trees and now we’ve been getting it over the past couple of weeks so that there’s some consistency to the amount of water.”

Love said more rain equals more crops.

“This is some of the best flowerings that we’ve had for lychee, mango, avocado, just incredible amounts of flowering,” Love explained. “We have some things like mountain apple and jaboticaba. This is already the second flowering, and it’s already fruited once. So we could have a record year with the number of crops we have for some of the fruits.”

According to Love, some rare trees are even flowering thanks to the rain.

But not every crop thrives in the extra wet weather.

“For tropical fruit trees, it’s been great,” Love said. “But for some of our other farmers who are growing lettuce and ground crops, they’re having a hard time. There’s some of the lettuce farmers having problems up in Waimea, because it’s just, they get flooded out.”

Though the wet weather has relieved drought-prone areas for the time being, it may not last, according to the National Weather Service.

“That can dry out quite quickly,” Wroe said. “So yeah, it could only take a month or two and you could have some drought development there if you don’t see rainfall. … While we are still favoring wetter conditions toward spring time, looking ahead towards summer, you can expect conditions to be near normal, and what that means is you see some windward rainfall, but our leeward areas are always quite dry during the summer, and that’s probably what will occur this year too.”

For more on Hawaii weather visit the National Weather Service at: https://www.weather.gov/

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