What Makes Hurricane Douglas Unusual.

As of Saturday, July 25, 2020, the state of Hawaii is under a hurricane warning. Hurricane Douglas continues to make its path towards the Hawaiian archipelago. It is predicted to make landfall on Saturday night. What makes this something of note is that Hawaii rarely gets hit by hurricanes.

Considering Hawaii’s location in the northern hemisphere’s tropics, it could be expected that Hawaii might get hit with hurricanes regularly. And yet, the occasional dusting of snow (in the mountains) is more common than hurricanes hitting Hawaii. In fact, Hurricane Iniki was the strongest hurricane ever to hit the archipelago state in the last 60 years.

Hurricane Iniki, September 1992

Location is a major reason why Hurricane Douglas, and hurricanes over all, are rare for Hawaii.

  1. Hawaii is located around trade winds. Those trade winds blow in easterly/northeast directions. Those winds push hurricanes away from Hawaii. These trade winds are a byproduct of a high pressure system located somewhat north of Hawaii.
  2. Being in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Ocean is very large. Hurricanes have to travel a far distance to reach Hawaii from where they might form. And this segues into something else. Hawaii is a small place in the middle of the Pacific. The timing for a hurricane to hit Hawaii would have to be on point.
  3. Ocean temperatures. Hurricanes need a water temperature of 27 C (80 F) to keep going. Why? The warm air over the ocean. It takes up the heat energy from the water, fueling the hurricane strength. The waters that surround the Hawaiian archipelago, on average, tend to be somewhat cooler than average for its latitude. They aren’t cold, but they are frequently not warm enough for hurricanes.

Cooler water temperatures, timing, and high pressure keep hurricanes from hitting Hawaii for the most part. Geography plays a role in weather and meteorology. And thus, this is why learning about weather and meteorology requires learning about geography as well. And for this reason, Hurricane Douglas would be considered a rarity for Hawaii. However, as the high pressure system weakens, this will increase Hawaii’s chances of getting hit by hurricanes. The U.S. eastern seaboard is used to getting strong hurricanes, particularly Florida. However, when a place isn’t used to getting a certain type of weather, it can be something to catch many off guard. This means having to be on guard for things such as hurricanes.


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