For a while, Maui's weather has been going through warm-and-cool, hazy-and-clear cycles characteristic of El Nino conditions, according to Glenn James, senior weather analyst with the Pacific Disaster Center in Kihei.
The pattern begins with the approach of a cold front from the north. That draws warm air and vog from the south and southeast, giving island residents humid air and hazy skies.
Then, as the cold front arrives it brings some rain and winds out of the northeast. Then, the cycle starts over again.
The Maui News / AMANDA COWAN photo
A motorist navigates a curve along the road up to Haleakala as hazy conditions obscure the view of the central valley below on Monday morning. Voggy air from the Big Island was not as bad Monday as it had been over the weekend, but weather analyst Glenn James said he expects more thick vog today.
Over the weekend, vog in the Central Maui valley was as "thick as a brick," James said. "I was standing in Kihei, and I could not see the West Maui Mountains."
And he said satellite photos Monday showed more voggy haze approaching Maui from the southeast, arriving probably today.
Vog conditions were not as bad Monday as they were during the weekend because the volcanic haze was to the south and southwest of Maui County, he said. "It's looming out there."
Coping with vog conditions
To cope with thick vog conditions, the American Lung Association recommends people with respiratory conditions:
* Stay indoors and use an air conditioner, if available.
* Do not smoke and avoid secondhand smoke.
* Limit physical exertion.
* Drink plenty of fluids to loosen mucus. (Warm beverages seem to work best.)
* Make sure there's an adequate supply of medications, keeping them readily available.
* Contact a physician as soon as a respiratory problem develops.
But James said he expected Kona winds to kick in Monday night and today, bringing a "swath of vog" over the islands. That's because there's an approaching cold front from the northwest, and "that's veered winds around now to the southeast," he said.
The cold front should come over Maui County on Wednesday, bringing showers "to help wash the vog away," he said, with any leftover "blown away by north winds."
The next cold front is expected to approach the islands Friday, beginning the cycle anew, with more vog on that day.
James said some of the recent cold fronts have not made it down as far south as Maui County, leaving the drought-plagued county without much-needed rain. But Wednesday's cold front has "a better chance of bringing more rainfall to us," he said. "We're really glad about that."
The current weather pattern is the result of El Nino, a phenomenon that occurs when ocean water in the eastern Pacific warms up and changes weather patterns worldwide, James said.
In Hawaii, El Nino, Spanish for "little boy," leads to drier-than-normal weather and larger-than-normal surf, he said, adding that the next large-to-extra-large surf is expected to reach Maui's northeast shores late Wednesday or on Thursday.
Maui already has been struggling with drought conditions, and James said severe drought can follow a winter without enough rain and come during a drier-than-normal summer.
"That's what we're looking at," he said.
* Brian Perry can be reached at email@example.com.