Launch of Hawaiʻi climate portal provides powerful tools for local decision-making

From managing invasive species or protecting ground and surface water, to restoring native ecosystems, a new tool will help resource managers, climate researchers, students, educators, and the community at large in Hawaiʻi navigate the impacts of changing climate patterns. The Hawaiʻi Climate Data Portal (HCDP), launched this past spring with the help of PI-AK collaborators Dr. Abby Frazier and Dr. Thomas Giambelluca, is a notable step towards providing accessible, high-quality, reliable climate data in near-real-time and filling climate information gaps for the State of Hawaiʻi.

The Nakula station is located in the Nakula Natural Area Reserve on the south flank of Haleakalā. The climate station (right) and the passive Juvik-type fog gauge (left) were installed in 2016 to study cloud water interception. The cloud water interception has recently concluded and most equipment has been disassembled, but the main climate station was kept as a Hawaiʻi Mesonet station.  Photo: Han Tseng

The tool was created by the Hawaiʻi Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (Hawaiʻi ESPCoR) ʻIke Wai project, through the University of Hawaiʻi (UH) and the Hawaiʻi Data Science Institute, in partnership with the UH Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) and the East-West Center. HCDP is an online open-source platform that hosts a wide range of data products, climate tools, and resources to inform planning and management decisions, providing the broader community access to information often difficult to find or use due to technical limitations.

“The Hawaiian Islands have one of the most unique and diverse climates on Earth,” says Abby Frazier, one of the core climate science team members behind the HCDP. “Rainfall, temperature, solar radiation, and relative humidity gradients are so pronounced that continental-scale ranges can be found over relatively short distances. This makes Hawai‘i an incredible place to conduct scientific research, but lots of data and information are required to accurately characterize the patterns we see.”

The content included on the HCDP was compiled over several years by many researchers and now allows users to access over 100 years of monthly rainfall maps, 30 years of daily temperature maps, and a range of other products in near-real-time. The HCDP also hosts a data visualization and download tool developed by a team of data scientists at UH led by Sean Cleveland and Jared Mclean. Other HCDP features include a library of over 700 related journal publications and reports; highlights of past and ongoing research; information on Indigenous climate knowledge and perspectives; and links to numerous decision support tools, external resources, and relevant organizations engaged in climate science and conservation of cultural stewardship across Hawaiʻi.

The HCDP allows you to visualize and download a map of your selected data.

“The products and tools that we have on the HCDP now are the start of something much bigger,” said Dr. Ryan Longman, another key member of the HCDP core climate science team and a past PI-CASC researcher. “We are working on bringing in additional data sets and developing new tools and resources for a wide range of stakeholders across the Pacific.” 

Other future plans for HCDP products and tools include near-real-time maps of vegetation, land cover, relative humidity, solar radiation, and fire risk, as well as flood and drought forecasting, avian malaria risk, and a warning and decision support tool for ranchers. The HCDP will also host data from the Hawaiʻi Mesonet project which will deploy more than 90 climate stations statewide.

“Easy access to near-real-time climate data and information, provided through the HCDP now, means less time spent on data collection and more time on making the necessary decisions to prepare for and adapt to changing environmental conditions projected for the future,” said Longman.