A century of spatial and temporal patterns of drought in Hawai‘i across hydrological, ecological, and socioeconomic scales

Authors: Abby Frazier*, East-West Center, Christian P. Giardina, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry
Topics: Climatology and Meteorology, Physical Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Drought, El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Pacific Islands, Climate Variability, GIS, Spatial Analysis
Session Type: Virtual Paper
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Drought is a prominent feature of Hawai‘i’s climate, however, the biological, ecological, cultural, and socioeconomic impacts of drought in Hawai‘i are not well understood. This paper provides a comprehensive synthesis of impacts of past droughts in Hawai‘i that we integrate with a geospatial analysis of drought characteristics (duration, frequency, severity, and geographic extent) using a newly developed 93-year (1920-2012) gridded Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) dataset. The synthesis examines past droughts classified into five categories: meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, ecological, and socioeconomic drought. Results show that drought duration, magnitude, and frequency have all increased significantly, consistent with trends found in other Pacific Islands. Most droughts, though not all, were associated with El Niño events, and the two worst droughts in the past century were 1998-2002 and 2007-2012. The most severe drought in the record (2007-2012) had the greatest impacts on Hawai‘i Island, whereas the islands of O‘ahu and Kaua‘i experienced more severe drought conditions during the 1998-2002 event. Both droughts exerted a large and quantifiable impact on the agricultural sector, and although anecdotal evidence points to strong impacts on ecological and socioeconomic sectors, more research is needed to understand drought impacts to these sectors. This synthesis is an example of how coupling quantitative SPI analysis with economic and ecological impacts can provide the historical context needed to better understand future drought projections, and will contribute to more effective policy and management of natural, cultural, hydrological, and agricultural resources.

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