Wildfires on Maui

As we witness the heartbreaking devastation of the wildfires on Maui you may be wondering how fires can happen in a tropical location.

Like all of the Hawaiian Islands, Maui was formed by volcanic activity and there is mountainous area roughly through the center of the island.

On the east side of the island the prevailing northeasterly winds (“Trade Winds”) provide a heavy supply of humid air that is lifted up the slopes of the mountains that forms clouds and precipitation, both rain and snow (on the mountaintop).

Iao Valley State Park receives more than 360.0″ of rain per year because of these dynamics.

On the west side of the island where many of the resort hotels are located the air is much drier since the humidity has precipitated out on the other side. As the prevailing wind goes down the slopes of the mountains it is compressed and heated, making for a much drier climate.

This situation is exactly what we have in Colorado here on the Front Range as we are in the “rain shadow” of the high mountains to the west.

On Maui the climate differences are extreme.

As I said, Iao Valley S.P. gets more than 360.0″ of rain per year, but less than 10 miles away (as the crow flies) Lahaina averages 13.4″ of rainfall yearly. That makes Lahaina drier than Denver… and summer in their driest season.

Similar to the Marshall Fire here on the Front Range, the fires on Maui have been driven by very strong winds.

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