Sunday, 28 September 2008

Dust bowl

Little Eddie has a look that reflects my mood right now. The ground she's sitting on was a grass lawn last year and now it's dirt and roots. The tropical sun often kills off the grass in the summer months but not the roots, and the grass has always recovered by this time of year but not now; my garden has hardly any soil left at all, let alone grass.

Local climate change is to blame I think. This winter we had tremendous rainfall that broke several records. My area received something like 50-inches of rain in a wild four days last February. I can't tell for sure because my rain gauge was underwater and then fried by a lightning strike (yes, it was an electronic gauge, I won't make that mistake again). For the first time since I bought my house, the garden flooded. Even the great storm of 2000 didn't flood it (25-inches of rain in 24-hours here on that unforgettable day, one place got 37-inches which is really hard to imagine). This year's flooding was followed by an extreme drought which is continuing as I write this.

Several people I talk to that have lived in the islands all their lives say that they have not seen weather like this before. Droughts have happened before and I live a few miles from the wettest city in the USA, so meteorological extremes are not uncommon, but the one thing they all seem to agree on is that the Big Island rarely experienced thunderstorms yet now gets them all the time during the winter - and some of then are quite intense, just ask one or two of my unlucky house guests.

I can attest (somewhat) to the thunderstorm experience - they didn't happen until a few years ago and since then my house has been struck by lightning several times. I've even see a tree in my yard explode. What a sight that was!

The winter floods washed my soil away and replaced it with moss. The summer drought has killed the moss and everything else with it and left my yard with little soil and lots of exposed lava rock. I think I'll be busy next spring trying to fix this but at least will have a few months to read the odd gardening book before then.

Then again, why am I whining? The sunset was wonderful this evening and the sunrise will be even better, and whenever I get fed up with the garden all I have to do is look around and take in all the beautiful sights of the island.


alice said...

Huh. We've been struggling with drought conditions here in SE Tennessee for the last year or two, so I've been checking the NIDIS drought map on a regular basis and not once have I glanced over at the Hawaiian islands on that map. I was shocked when I clicked over just now and found that pretty much the entire state is suffering with various levels of drought at the moment. Hawaii? Drought? That's crazy talk!

Tom said...

Alice - it seems to be one extreme or the other here these last few years, flood or drought. A month after this year's flooding the authorities were already telling us we were back in drought conditions. It hits people hard on the island because 1) there are lots of small agricultural businesses and 2) much of the population is not on county water and use water catchment systems instead. Large familes are common here and use a lot of water, so during droughts they have to have water trucked in and with the price of gas this has become very expensive.

alice said...

I suppose the extremes make sense, since the islands are the tops of volcanoes -- rocks jutting out of the sea -- so when it does rain, wouldn't the water just wash away, rather than being retained by the land somehow?

How much is gas there these days? We're having shortages here, but when we can find some to buy, it's mostly under $4 per gallon.

Tom said...

No gas shortages here but it's about $4.30 a gallon in this area, and that's come down quite a bit in the last few weeks.

alice said...


In other news, have you seen this cartoon yet?

(courtesy of Keera)

Tom said...

I haven't seen that before. Thank you!