In my hometown of Waimea on the Big Island of Hawai’i, there are trade winds! Almost always, Hawai’i’s tropical trade winds breeze through our homes and offices, keeping us cool while the bright Hawaiian sun shines outside.
How Trade Winds Got Their Name
We appreciate these breezes for the comfortable climate they provide, and for the clean air they maintain, but they provide more than perfect weather. Historically, trade winds helped sailors navigate the vast oceans of the world in their wooden ships, and on a larger scale, they help regulate the earth’s climates.
“Spanish Galleon” by KVDP – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Trade winds are generally consistent and were well known to the early maritime traders. The captains of these trade ships were guided by these winds and their patterns to cross the great ocean and reach distant lands to trade their goods, and this is how these tropical winds became known as “trade” winds.
“Map prevailing winds on earth” by KVDP – Own work. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Waimea Trade Winds
The Big Island’s four major mountains, our spectacular Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Kohala, and Hualalai, present an obstacle to the trade winds flowing from the north. The mountainous topography of the Big Island blocks the airflow, effectively creating complex wind patterns all over the island and two distinct climate regions: the windward (north-east) and the leeward (south-west).
Waimea town is nestled at the base of Kohala Mountains, right between the windward and leeward sides of the island. In fact, Waimea residents often refer to the east side of town as “the green side” and the west as “the dry side.”
This photo is taken where the “green side” meets the “dry side” in Waimea
Hawaii’s trade winds provide its residents natural year-long ventilation – we stay cool! From May to September, the trades pump it up a notch, and it can get gusty in the spring and summer, especially in Waimea, where we have a particularly strong wind we affectionately call Kamakani (“the wind”). The Kamakani blows down from Kohala, keeping all us Waimea folks on our toes, reminding us that nature is indeed a powerful force.
Photograph by Hawaii Preparatory Academy, mascot tree that has been shaped by the Kamakani
From August to April, things settle down a bit and we enjoy the gentle breeze that cools our sun-kissed skin, lifts our hair in playful tugs, and reminds us we are “lucky we live Hawaii!”
Waimea Life Part 3
Stay tuned for Waimea Life Part 3 about the history of the Waimea Cherry Blossom Festival.