I arrived here in Hawaii some 52 years ago and, as with all newcomers, couldn’t get over how consistently beautiful and benign the weather was. A typical afternoon in August would be sunny, temperature in the upper 80s, and a breeze from the northeast at perhaps 10 miles an hour. A typical afternoon in February would be pretty much the same, but with the temperature in the low 80s. What’s not to like about that!
Personally, I’m fine with consistently beautiful weather, but there are a lot of people who prefer a real change of seasons. I worked with a fellow back then who had recently come to Honolulu from Minneapolis. I remember running into him one morning and saying, “How’s it going, Lou?” He looked at me with a sour expression on his face. “Well”, he said, “it’s another one of these goddam beautiful days.”
Old timers will tell you — I guess I qualify as one of those now — that fifty years ago we never experienced real mainland-style thunderstorms. Very rarely there would be what we used to call heat lightening, but it was always at a distance and high above the clouds. On those rare occasions, we’d head down to the beach and lie on the cool sand enjoying the display.
But more recently, as tropical storms come through here, we get honest-to-God thunder storms, with bolts of lightening and ear-splitting crashes that terrorize our animals. My daughter’s dogs panic at the first loud clap of thunder and leap right through the screen door into her house.
And, until now, all we could do was shake our heads and say, “Gee, it never used to be like this.”
But now there’s a credible, scientific explanation: It’s the vog!
“Vog” is what we call “volcanic smog”. It comes from the Kilauea volcano on the Island of Hawaii, which has been erupting continuously for 30 years. The Big Island is northeast of Maui and when the winds come from that direction, skies over Maui can be very hazy from the fine particles of ash from Kilauea … the vog. According to volcanologists from the University of Hawaii, when the plume of vog gets caught up into a swirling storm, there is apparently a reaction that can trigger a full-on, old-fashioned, mainland-style thunder storm.
Here on Maui, we’ve been living with the vog for thirty years now and we’d really prefer that it would go away. A lot of people have increased respiratory problems because of it and it certainly diminishes the breathtaking view we get of West Maui when we drive into town. Interestingly, most of the Big Island residents seem quite happy with the situation. Yes, the vog is annoying … but the volcano is great for tourism!