Twin Tropical Systems to Douse Hawaii This Week

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Aug. 4 2014 4:54 PM

Twin Tropical Systems to Douse Hawaii This Week

107852910-drops-of-water-on-a-pane-of-glass-reflect-a-palm-tree
Hawaii is going to get drenched this week.

Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Typically tranquil Hawaii is in for an outsized share of weather chaos later this week as two tropical systems seem poised for close approaches.

The first, Hurricane Iselle, is currently as powerful as the strongest storm ever to make landfall in Hawaii: 1992’s Iniki, which hit Kauai hard.

Advertisement

Iselle should arrive on Thursday or Friday, according to the National Hurricane Center. The next one, Tropical Storm Julio, could follow on roughly the same path just two or three days later, though its track and strength are more uncertain. Julio’s development will likely be limited thanks to the cold water stirred up by Iselle.

Both storms are expected to hit Hawaii at roughly tropical storm strength (with sustained winds between 39 and 73 mph) and could bring an extended bout of heavy rainfall that could produce power outages and mudslides. The storms’ arrival coincides with the state’s primary election, to be held on Saturday.

Hawaii has seen hurricanes before, but rarely. The islands are relatively protected from strengthening storms by the southernmost fringe of the cold California Current. That current helps to moderate tropical water temperatures, and tropical storms bound for Hawaii from Mexico’s West Coast usually fizzle out prior to arrival. Iselle and Julio should do the same, though are expected to retain enough strength to warrant close attention, thanks in part to those waters currently being warmer than normal.

In Hawaii, storms like Iselle and Julio are once-per-decade threats. According to my search of the NOAA hurricane database, only eight storms have made landfall or near-landfall (coming within 20 miles or so) in Hawaii at tropical storm or hurricane strength since 1950. Should Julio follow in Iselle’s path, they’d set a record: Never before have two storms come so close to Hawaii in the same year, let alone the same week. That could happen by Sunday, when Julio is expected to make its closest approach.

A recent swing to the positive phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (a cyclical warming of the North Pacific Ocean), plus a simmering El Niño, plus a general push from anthropogenic climate change are making the waters near Hawaii warmer than they otherwise would be this week.

FT-140804-Hawaii
Hawaii’s hurricane history is sparse. Highlighted: Category 4 Hurricane Iniki (1992), which devastated Kauai.

Image: NOAA Coastal Services Center

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Eric Holthaus is a meteorologist who writes about weather and climate for Slate’s Future Tense. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Behold
Sept. 21 2014 11:00 AM Sometimes You Just Need to Print Your Photos the Old-Fashioned Way 
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 21 2014 8:00 AM An Astronaut’s Guided Video Tour of Earth
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.