A wet August for Kona coffee farmers, dry elsewhere


  • KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald file photo Rain accumulates on hibiscus petals in Hilo.

It was a drier-than-average August in East Hawaii, while rainfall totals in the Kona coffee belt, which experiences its rainy season in the summer, were above average for the month.

That’s according to the monthly precipitation summary prepared by Kevin Kodama, senior service hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Honolulu.


Kodama said that most Big Island gauges “logged mostly below average rainfall totals for the month of August,” but noted “pockets of near-to-above-normal amounts, moist notably along the slopes of the North and South Kona districts and the windward slopes of the Kohala Mountains.”

Hilo International Airport reported its lowest August total since 2008, with 4.25 inches, 43% of its August norm of 9.85 inches. However, Hilo’s 74.64 inches of rainfall is 93% of its yearly norm of 79.94 inches for the first eight months of the year.

Mountain View reported 7.43 inches of rain last month, a bit more than half of its usual 13.64 inches for August. The upper Puna village is one of the few populated spots on the windward side of the island experiencing normal rainfall for the year, with 113.59 inches, 0.6 inches above norm for the first eight months.

Further upslope in the Puna rain forest, the gauge at Glenwood tallied just 7.8 inches, 42% of its average August total of 18.37 inches. The customarily rainy spot has recorded 119.77 inches for the year, but that’s just more than three-quarters of its year-to-date norm of 154.48 inches.

Hakalau, a few miles north of Hilo, had an extremely dry August with only 1.31 inches, less than one-fifth of its August norm of 7.05 inches. It’s been a wet year so far, though, for the hamlet, with 79.33 inches, 160% of its average of 49.48 inches.

As previously noted, all four official gauges in the Kona coffee belt recorded above-average rainfall totals in August, with Kealakekua reporting 8.54 inches, Kainaliu measuring 8.06 inches, Waiaha tallying 7.72 inches and Honaunau checking in with 7.54 inches. Honaunau’s total was 129% of norm, giving it the driest August in the coffee belt, relatively speaking.

Not every West Hawaii spot shared in the rainfall bounty, however.

Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole recorded just 0.53 inches, 38% of its average August of 1.39 inches. It’s also a drier-than-normal year at the relatively arid airport, with 9.22 inches, three-quarters of its year-to-date norm of 12.11 inches.

“Conditions were very dry in many areas of the Big Island, especially during the latter half of August. The exception is the Kona slopes region, which received ample rainfall during the summer,” Kodama said.

According to Kodama, August also was notable for “the lack of tropical cyclone activity.”

“August is historically the most active month for tropical cyclones in the central North Pacific basin with a long-term average of one to two systems,” he said. “However, there were no tropical cyclones during the entire month, leaving the 2020 season count at two, a system in June and another in July.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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