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In this region both tropical and temperate midlatitude storms affect the climate. Twice during the.

Average animal solar radiation received in Hawai'i differs substantially from place to place. Highest solar radiation occurs along leeward coasts and atop the highest mountain peaks. The coastal areas of high radiation have attracted major resort development. The patterns on the map result from spatial differences in the amount of solar radiation absorbed and reflected before reaching the ground.

Air pollutants, naturally occurring aerosols, and gases absorb solar radiation; thus the amount of solar radiation reaching the ground can be reduced by urban pollution, fires, volcanic emissions, and suspended particles of sea salt, as well as by increased stratospheric ozone concentration and humidity. Distance above sea level is also a factor, since at higher elevations radiation traverses shorter paths through the atmosphere to reach the ground. But by far the most important cause of variation in solar radiation received at the ground is clouds.

The orographic process that produces clouds, and the extreme spatial variations in rainfall, are also responsible for the radiation pattern. At its lowest position, during December, the noon sun reaches an elevation of about 45 degrees in the southern sky. The length of the daylight period changes little throughout the year in the tropics.

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The longest and shortest days of the year in Hawai'i differ by only 2 hours and 34 minutes, while in Montreal, Canada, at 45 degrees north, the difference is 6 hours and 52 minutes. As a result, the amount of solar radiation reaching the ground varies much less through the year in Hawai'i than at higher latitudes. Montreal in December, for example, receives less than 20 percent of the sunlight it gets in July.

In contrast, Honolulu's December sunshine is 60 percent of the July amount. Hence, the atmosphere over the Islands is strongly influenced by the ocean, which supplies moisture to the air and regulates its temperature. Because of ocean water's transparency, high heat storage capacity, and abilities to diffuse heat by mixing and to dissipate heat through evaporation, ocean temperatures fluctuate much less than those of land surfaces. This fundamental difference between land and water strongly affects the atmosphere, producing continental and maritime climates, which are distinguished principally by their annual temperature range.

Hawai'i has one of the planet's most pronounced maritime climates. The ocean acts as a "thermal flywheel," damping the seasonal day-to-day and day-night swings in temperature.

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Atmospheric Circulation The large-scale features of motion in the atmosphere, known as the general. Cool season rainfall varies substantially from year to year. In some years Kona storms are absent and cold fronts are weak. Warming phases generally occur every four to seven years. Shifts in oceanic temperature patterns coincide with atmospheric changes, the most important to Hawai'i being the development of thunderstorms over the equator near the International Dateline. These clouds cause heating of the atmosphere, creating high pressure at 35, feet 10, m , which in turn alters the winds north of the equator.

Under these conditions, winter winds subside over the Islands, suppressing Kona storms and weakening fronts. The trade winds fail, and along with them, the rains. The warm phase of an ENSO also brings the development of westerly winds along the equator, which favors the formation of tropical cyclones south of the Islands. ENSO warm-phase years generally, but not always, correspond with a greater number of tropical cyclones. A reversal of warm-year patterns occurs during cold-phase years. The effects of ENSO events are stronger in Hawai'i than at higher latitudes because of the state's location nearer to the source of the actual disturbance at the equator.

Average relative humidity depends on ambient air temperature and moisture content.

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Since the Hawaiian Islands are surrounded by ocean waters, in theory variability should be small. Annual ranges shown in the table are 3. Annual relative humidity minima correspond to summer high temperatures. At least 40 years of humidity data have been recorded at all three sites. In Kona, clouds produce afternoon rain on the slopes, then dissipate at night, resulting in a diurnal rain cycle unique in Hawai'i.

The role of slope circulation is evident in a comparison of relative humidity at varying elevations. Stations below the trade wind inversion have minimum relative humidity measurements at midday, the expected result where moisture content is steady but air temperature rises due to insolation. The midday rise in relative humidity indicates that air from below the inversion has been carried aloft by upslope winds. The Hadley Cell circulation, named after the seventeenth-century English scientist who first proposed it, is driven by warm air rising near the equator.

At the rising limb of the Hadley Cell, towering thunderstorm clouds are frequent and rainfall is copious. At the descending limb, cloud development is suppressed and rainfall is low. A major component of the atmospheric general circulation is initiated by the rising of air heated near the equator.

This warm air drives a system in each hemisphere called the Hadley Cell, whereby air moves poleward at high altitudes, sinks back to the surface over a broad area centered at around 30 degrees north, and then returns to the equator at the surface.


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In the Northern Hemisphere, air moving back to the equator along the surface is deflected by Earth's rotation to flow from northeast to southwest. Widely known as the trade winds because their reliability made this zone a favorite route of seagoing merchant ships in the days of sail, these northeasterly surface winds are a dominant feature of tropical climate outside of the monsoon regions of Asia and Africa.

Hawai'i lies within the Northern Hemisphere Hadley Cell, where persistent northeast winds and descending air from above have pronounced effects on climate. Sinking air in the Hadley Cell warms as it is compressed. In contrast, air heated at the planet's surface rises, expands, and cools. Where rising and sinking air meet, a layer forms in which air gets warmer as altitude increases; this is generally known as a temperature inversion.

In Hawai'i this layer is called the trade wind inversion. It occurs most frequently during summer and varies in altitude between about 5, and 10, feet 1, and 3, m. Rising air is of particular importance to weather because it is responsible for most cloud formation and precipitation. Persistent conditions promoting or inhibiting rising air are responsible for many of the differences in climate from place to place. The trade wind inversion inhibits rising air, creating a ceiling through which warm, moist, buoyant surface air cannot penetrate.

Thus clouds that form are capped at the level of the trade wind inversion. Being shallow, they are much less effective than deeper clouds at producing rain, making the region around Hawai'i one of relatively low. Because the inversion acts to keep humid marine air from reaching high altitudes, the upper slopes of the state's highest mountains usually experience clear skies, low humidity, and minimal precipitation.

Descending air from the Hadley Cell also creates a globe-girdling belt of high pressure at the surface in each hemisphere.

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Within these belts, quasicircular high-pressure systems known as subtropical anticyclones are nearly permanent features of surface weather patterns. The trade winds reaching Hawai'i originate from the North Pacific anticyclone, located northeast of the Islands. Poleward of the subtropical anticyclones, systems of low and high pressure cyclones and anticyclones follow regular paths as they migrate from west to east across the midlatitudes.

Subtropical anticyclones shift with the seasons, moving closer to the equator during winter. The North Pacific anticyclone moves farther north and, on average, is stronger and more persistent in summer. During winter, with the anticyclone farther south, weaker, or sometimes absent, storms midlatitude cyclones move closer to the Hawaiian Islands, often disrupting the trade winds and related weather conditions.

Typically, cold fronts associated with midlatitude cyclones bring clouds and rain with winds from the northeast through the northwest. However, when cold fronts pass directly over the Islands, heavy rains accompanied by southwest winds may occur. The frequency of the passage of fronts varies from year to year and is responsible for wet and dry years in leeward regions, which receive much of their rainfall from fronts.

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Kona Hawaiian for leeward storms are another type of low-pressure system that develop in the sub-tropics at high altitudes and gradually extend toward the surface. Occasionally a Kona storm will form west of Hawai'i, bringing moist, southerly winds and rain, which may persist for a week or more. Vertical cloud development blocked by upper level temperature inversion, windward, Mauna Kea.

The inversion itself is a relatively shallow layer in which temperature increases rather than decreases with elevation. The graph shows the trade wind inversion at 6, feet 1, m elevation on 13 July above Hilo. This seemingly minor fluctuation in the temperature profile has enormous consequences for the atmosphere.

Air rising for any reason at the level of the inversion will be cooler than the air above, and therefore too heavy to ascend farther. Vertical motion below the inversion creates a well-mixed marine air layer with abundant water vapor and suspended particles of sea salt, as well as smoke from automobile exhaust and particulates from Hawai'i Island's volcanic eruptions. The lower graph shows the humidity profile measured at the same time as the temperatures on the upper graph. The abrupt change in humidity at 6, feet 1, m is evidence of the effectiveness of the inversion in containing surface air.

The photo shows the effect on cloud development. Rising air reaches saturation and begins to condense water at around 2, feet m , but cloud development is halted at the inversion. Consequently rainfall in Hawai'i is limited, except when the large-scale atmospheric pattern displaces the inversion, or where orographic lifting produces rainfall on windward slopes. Tropical cyclones develop over warm ocean surfaces and initially move from east to west.

They are smaller than midlatitude storms and sometimes become very powerful hurricanes, delivering rain, high surf, devastating winds, and elevated sea level if they reach land areas. See section on Hurricanes. Terrain The varying terrain of the Hawaiian Islands also significantly affects climate patterns. The islands are almost continuously buffeted by wind, usually northeast trades.