If forecasters are correct, this year’s El Nino weather event in Hawaii could be a surfer’s dream, but a oceanfront property-owner’s nightmare. That’s because big surf associated with the climate pattern may bring monster surf to Hawaii, among other big changes.

What is El Nino?

According to forecasters, this year’s El Nino weather event may be among the most powerful on record.

The El Nino climate pattern is triggered by a vast, expanding pool of warmer-than-normal ocean water in the tropical Pacific near the equator. El Nino kicks in when warm water bands conflict with the usual coller temperatures off the west coast of South America. This touches off climatic changes across the globe. For the mainland, it menas a greater likelihood of lots of winter rainfall for drought-stricken California as well as heavy winter rain for the Southern and Eastern U.S.  The event usually creates drier conditions in the Midwest.

Typically, El Nino reduces the number of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, but increases the number of hurricanes in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean.

How will El Nino impact Hawaii?

  • Surf: El Nino in Hawaii will likely have a variety of impacts. According to Pat Caldwell wiht the NOAA Data Centers of Honolulu, the upcoming winter could bring epic waves to Hawaii, with lots of sizable swells from the northwest and not a lot of severe weather to help cut them down to size. However, the big surf could spell trouble for oceanfront property-owners. That’s because big waves on the North Shore could create more shoreline erosion.

Photo: Big Island Visitors Bureau (BIVB) / Ethan Tweedie

High surf may also increase erosion, which could impact oceanfront properties like Eva Parker Woods Cottage at Mauna Lani resort on the Big Island.
  • Hurricanes: On average, the Central Pacific sees anywhere from three to five named tropical cyclones during the hurricane season from June to November, but many forecasters say El Nino will likely create an environment for more storms. Already this year, the Central Pacific has seen five storms, and forecasters say more are likely to come close to Hawaii. Weak wind shear may further fuel hurricane development in the eastern tropical Pacific in the months ahead. According to Axel Timmermann, University of Hawaii meteorology professor, Hawaii residents can expect a very active hurricane season.
  • Rainfall: According to Chris Brenchley, warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Honolulu, after the hurricane season is over in November, we should look for El Nino to result in below-average rainfall in the winter, normally Hawaii’s wet season. Drought conditions in leeward Kauai and Maui may only worsen this winter. This may create parched landscapes vulnerable to wildfire.

Photo: Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Dana Edmunds

El Nino is likely to intensify drought conditions in some areas on the leeward sides of Kauai and Maui.

No matter where you are on the globe, El Nino is likely to impact your weather, and that’s true for El Nino in Hawaii, as well. So, keep an eye on the weather as you make your travel plans—and expect to enjoy the high surf and dry conditions while you’re here!



    • November is well-after hurricane season in Hawaii, so you should be fine to visit that month. Keep in mind, you’re getting a little closer to winter, which is typically wetter than summer.

  1. Hawaii is going to get it just as bad as California if not worse. The worst part about California is that we have been in a drought for almost 5 years so our soil is extremely hard and we have had many wild fires that results in weaker tree roots if any at all. This two cause mudslides really fast.

  2. Hi. I have plans to travel to Oahu end of March with kids in tow and am worried about the impact El Niño will have on the island. Will weather conditions be good for travel end of March 2016? Many thanks

    • Aloha Chris……Don’t worry the weather will be perfect! The only impact so far is LESS RAIN, which is good for tourists 🙂

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