What Do The Clouds Above Hawaii Tell Us?

There are so many different words for “cloud” in the Hawaiian language, and you will understand why when you look up in the sky and try to describe the different cloudscapes. Clouds are formed when water evaporates and warm and cool air mixes, so needless to say, it is very rare to have cloudless days in Hawaii.

Beautiful cloud formations occur during the winter months in Hawaii. My dad used to point at clouds and predict the weather that way, long before the internet… Cloud shapes are usually a good indication of what’s happening with the conditions. Check out my last blog on that subject.

Above in the Auau Channel between Lanai and Maui: a contradictory combination of fluffy cumulonimbus clouds — the flat bottom indicating trade winds — along with a straight line of pink clouds, meaning the sky is calm. Weather conditions change so rapidly in Hawai; you often see interesting patterns like these.

Above: rain falls on Lanai under these cumulonimbus clouds. Nimbus clouds are low-level clouds that bear rain. These are a mix of nimbus and cumulus. Higher up, there is the sunshine and cirrocumulus clouds…

Cirrocumulus are beautiful and rare clouds — high up in the sky like a honeycomb… an indicator that the winds are shifting direction and the weather will be getting cooler. Above a Cirrocumulus Mackerel Sky. There are various kinds of “Mackerel Sky.” My dad called this “variables,” indicating the weather is changing substantially.

Beautiful altocumulus mackerel sky patterns in Kahului above the West Maui mountains means the weather will be improving.

When the mountains are clear of clouds, and my hair gets frizzy, I know a storm is coming! Things smell different, and the weather almost feels heavy when there is high humidity and a low pressure system… Above: Ho’okipa with Kahakuloa and Molokai in the distance.

Sunrise over Haleakala with layers of stratus clouds…looks gloomy but it won’t rain.

Cool shaped cumulonimbus rain-cloud cloud formations over Lanai — near the ground, cumulonimbus have sharper edges due to the winds, as they get higher, they get wispier at the edges.

More storm clouds over Lanai — a mixture of cumulonimbus and nimbostratus. Nimbostratus are rain clouds that stretch across the sky

Above: a dramatic nimbostratus and cumulonimbus cloudscape.

It’s rare to see Molokai clear of clouds like this as the Pailolo channel usually gets hits by the trade winds going East to West.

High, wispy cirrus clouds, made of freezing droplets over Kahului with fluffy cumulus clouds lower to the ground.

Above a combination of cirrocumulus and fast-moving cirrus clouds.

More cloud observation — anvil-shaped cumulonimbus are common when the cumulus rises up high like this and can’t rise any farther — they flatten out on top… rain is probably on the way.

Molokai: most days in Hawaii, we have puffy, white cumulus clouds indicating no rain in sight! The fact there is not a flat bottom on these clouds means no trade winds. A warm, dry day ahead.

What’s in the cumulus clouds above Puamana in Lahaina: a baby piggy-back riding a duck? What do you see in the skies above Hawaii? Send me your pix!

Many of the beautiful cloudscapes in this blog were photographed by my talented daughter, Zoe.

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Lisa Velasquez

November 26, 2019

I love the cloud formations here. A sunrise or sunset without clouds is boring.
Thanks Anna!


November 26, 2019

> Hi Lisa, True! Clouds make mo bettah sunsets! Thanks

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January 6, 2020

> wait a minute! People who cloud-gaze aren’t necessarily stoned! Hilarious

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