November 25, 2011
While visiting the Big Island of Hawaii, I wondered: Why does its amazing weather vary from a jungle on one side to a desert on the other?
The island of Hawaii, the Big Island, is a geophysical marvel. Its climate ranges from a tropical rain forest on the east (windward) side of the island to a coastal desert on the west (leeward) side — with towering, occasionally snow-capped, volcanoes between. Warm, moist easterly trade winds blowing across the tropical Pacific Ocean are forced up and over the domes of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Rising and cooling, moisture condenses and rain pours out, averaging 200 inches per year on the eastern upslope. Warming and drying on the downslope, the western Kohala Coast is bone dry, annually receiving only 5-10 inches.
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