"The islands of Hawaii are world renowned for their generally pleasant and
tranquil weather. However, the Aug. 8, 2023, wildfire tragedy on Maui was a
stark reminder that Hawaii also can experience drought and hot, dry, windy
weather, providing the conditions for destructive fires.
Hawaii has seen a generally rising trend in the amount of land that burns each
year as the local climate warms. Climate change was one of several contributors
to Maui’s wildfire catastrophe, and rising temperatures and associated rainfall
changes are expected to increase the islands’ fire risk. These changing weather
patterns will also affect Hawaii’s ecosystems and freshwater resources.
I am a meteorologist at the University of Hawaii, and I have worked with
colleagues to develop sophisticated computer climate simulations that project
local rainfall changes over the 21st century.
Our results suggest that as the planet warms, Hawaii’s dry regions will get
drier, heightening the fire risk. At the same time, its wet areas will become
The drier parts of the state in particular have reason to be concerned about
the future of fresh water available for residential, commercial and
agricultural uses. In addition, changes in rainfall are expected to affect the
distribution of plants in Hawaii, harming some unique native species such as
silversword and increasing some invasive grass species that enhance fire
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics