Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of the World's Coastal Landforms

pp 125-132


  • Charles H. FletcherAffiliated withUniversity of MelbourneUniversity of Hawaii
  • , Eden J. FeirsteinAffiliated withUniversity of MelbourneUniversity of Hawaii


The state of Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Hawaii, Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, Molokai, Oahu, Kauai, Niihau, and 124 small volcanic and carbonate islets offshore of the main islands, and to the northwest (Fig. 1.16.1). The climate is sub tropical oceanic. Honolulu has a mean monthly temperature of 21.7°C in January, rising to 25.6°C in July, and an average annual rainfall of 802 mm. The Hawaiian archipelago lies in the zone of northeast­­erly trade winds, which bring high rainfall to the windward mountain slopes while the leeward coasts are in rain shadow. Hawaii’s preeminent example of this orographic rain is Kauai’s Mount Waialeale, which receives an average 1168 cm of rain a year. In contrast, the dry air descending down Kauai’s leeward side creates local semi-arid conditions at Polihale Beach on the west side of the island which receives on average a mere 20 cm of rain a year. In addition to northeasterly waves generated by the trade winds there are oce ...

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