Experts warn Hawaii summer drought ‘could be worse than last year’

Local News

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Less than normal rainfall and higher temperatures may cause severe drought conditions in summer 2021.

Some places are already seeing the impact and experts say it will only get worse.

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Hot, sunny days are great while at the beach, but too much sunshine and not enough rain for prolonged periods of time can cause problems — especially for farmers and ranchers.

Be prepared for another dry, hot summer. Weather experts are expecting below average rainfall.

Hawaii is seeing abnormally dry conditions on every island across the state and some Leeward areas are experiencing moderate drought conditions already.

According to NOAA Hydrologist Kevin Kodama, two counties will be hit the hardest.

“Hawaii County and Maui County would have the quickest impacts and probably the most severe impact, especially early on,” Kodama said. “I would anticipate that based on the climate outlook, climate model projections, that it could be worse than last year.”

Rep. Lynn DeCoite (D) who represents Molokai, Lanai and parts of Maui, says she can see it already.

“It’s bad. And we’re in May,” Rep. DeCoite said. “Pastures are drying up.”

Rep. DeCoite, who lives on Molokai, says it is concerning. She does not want a repeat of summer 2020 when hundreds of axis deer were found dead of starvation along roadways due to overpopulation and lack of food.

The Hawaii Cattleman’s Council managing director Nicole Galase says ranchers are already preparing for the worst.

“Ranchers are monitoring so many factors when it comes to their operation,” Galase said. “So if a drought is coming, they are preparing ahead of time.”

If there is not enough forage on the ground, they purchase supplemental feed, which she said can get very expensive.

“On top of making sure that the cattle are fed, another important factor when drought comes up is that the ranchers are always looking ahead to make sure that that they’re grazing down the forage so that there’s not a big fuel load for when those dry seasons come so they can prevent wildfires before they start,” she explained.

According to Agriculture Committee vice chair Rep. Amy Perruso, some farmers are more vulnerable than others.

“Small farmers are the most vulnerable,” Perruso said. “Because in my experience, their margins are the smallest. And they can’t really afford the kinds of losses that might come with drought.”

Consumers will feel it as well.

“You’re going to see prices jump in vegetables, fruits, beef,” Rep. DeCoite explained. “We will be depending upon our imports more highly.”

Water will also be an issue as Hawaii moves into the summer months.

Experts are suggesting the people who rely on water catchment systems for their water to begin conserving now.

“Stop washing your cars and watering your yards, it needs to be used for the crops at this time,” Rep. DeCoite said.

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