Despite the hot summer weather in Hawaii, there is actual snow on the Mauna Kea summit.
The winter-like conditions are such that the road to the summit is closed to the public at the Visitors Information Station due to icy road conditions.
After a road inspection Friday morning, a ranger reported ice on the upper summit ridge and switchback, the east/west summit ridge, and the roads. He also reported mixed rain and snow, fog, and an inch and a half of frozen snow on the summit and moderate winds.
Mauna Kea weather varies widely. A calm, sunny day may quickly become treacherous with hurricane force winds and blizzard conditions. Summit winds above 120 mph are not uncommon. Snowstorms have even occurred during the summer months.
Temperatures decrease with elevation. Numbers out of Hilo Friday morning showed the following:
- 5,000 ft. – 71 degrees
- 10,000 ft. – 28 degrees
- 19,000 ft. – 12 degrees
But it was moisture, not temperature, that caused Friday’s snowfall.
Thunderstorms from Thursday night sent clouds and moisture to the summit where it froze.