We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Winter

As I type this, here is the view out our front door:

snow pan

Snome, sweet snome.

…and it is still snowing. All of which will become irrelevant, if all goes according to plan, since in about a week we will be exchanging it for this view out our front door.

2016-01-23 13_49_57-An Artist's Home on the Big Island - Houses for Rent in Kailua-Kona

Now we’re talkin’.

This is because we have decided to transform into snowbirds this year, about to sojourn in Hawaii for nearly six weeks. Our goals are to escape the winter, do a lot of snorkeling, visit the volcano, hike around, and make our friends jealous.

There is an element of homecoming on this trip, as I lived on the Big Island for three years in the early 1980’s as a postdoc at Mauna Kea Observatory. For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of Hawaii, here’s the picture:

2016-01-23 14_28_01-Hawaii - Google MapsWe chose Kona because it is on the sunny, leeward side of the island. The Big Island is far and away the most diverse of the islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. Its size is one reason, though at its widest point it is only 93 mi (150 km) across. More importantly, the presence of two 14,000′ (4300m) mountains in the middle of the island, Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, break up the terrain into a remarkable number of distinct climate zones. For our purposes the important fact is that the trade winds blow from the east, pick up lots o’ moisture from the Pacific, and collide with those two mountains when they get to Hawaii. That causes the winds to dump all their moisture on the eastern side of the island. Result: Hilo (where I lived) is very rainy, averaging (wait for it) 156″ (4m) of rain a year, whilst Kona gets about 1/3 as much. The temperature is pretty steady throughout the year, with lows of about 70F (19C) and highs of about 82F (28C).

This is an El Niño year, as you may know – one of the most powerful on record, as it happens. What that means for Hawaii is slightly warmer water temperatures than usual (about 80F/27C) and more cloudy days. But we can live with that.

We’ll be enjoying a pretty steady stream of visitors during our stay, and I hope to take a lot of photos, a sampling of which I’ll post here along with the occasional brain dump about Hawaii’s history, geology, etc., along with our own experiences.


Categories: Hawaii | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Winter

  1. John and I spent our honeymoon on the Big Island. John is a star nut (currently writing new piano pieces for every named star…if he lives long enough) and loved the tour of the observatory. I was so cold that I went back to the car. We stayed in Kona where a mongoose was a daily visitor to the hotel outdoor dining area, but drove all over the island – rain forest in the north, lava in the south, one of the most amazing experiences of my life. We look forward to seeing you!

  2. Thumper Evans


    You should come to Palm Springs for a couple of months next year. It’s awesome.

  3. Anonymous

    Friends are jealous. One mission accomplished! Enjoy.

  4. Elaine Dodge

    I’m jealous – what a great trip to anticipate while we see this storm dumping more and more snow. We can’t even see the street over our balcony railing!

    Since we’ll be digging out tomorrow, don’t envision getting together. Hopefully there will be another chance before you leave, even if it’s for a few minutes to say Bon voyage.


  5. Jeanne Alexis Beatty

    Whew, it’s about time you guys got back to globetrotting for those of us enjoying your travels vicariously! Looking forward to the stories and photos, and hope you have a great time.

  6. Anonymous

    Do you and Alice have a sign-up for visitors?

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