Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Hawaiian Snow

Recently, after a big snowstorm on the mainland, it was noted in the press that every state had snowfall except for Hawaii. Many people found this unsurprising as they have the stereotypical image of Hawaii as all sandy beaches and swaying palm trees. In reality, the islands have a wide range of temperatures and climates, including snowcapped mountain peaks.
Mauna Kea rises over 13,000 feet above sea level. Observatories from nations all around the world have been established on its peak as it is so high as to allow minimal atmospheric interference with the powerful telescopes. Hawai'i is currently experiencing a drought so this year there is no snow on Mauna Kea. But, around this time last year, there was plenty of snow on the mountain and we took a drive up it to enjoy the rarity of Hawaiian snow.

The sky at this altitude is an unusually dark blue. It really contrasts with the glaringly bright snow. The air is quite thin and activity has to be done conservatively.

The two photos above show how the peak is usually above the cloud layer. The white snowfield merges with the white cloudscape below. It is a fascinating scene. If you are on the Big Island during wintertime this is definitely worth checking out. On the right side of this page is a link that connects to several webcams at the observatories allowing one to check for snow. Also of interest is the time-lapse video which lets you see the stars travel across the night sky.

No comments:

Post a Comment