Wind, Rain, Currents
Leading lives so intimately tied to the natural world, Hawaiians became expert at reading weather signs and ocean currents. The kilo lani was the ancient weatherman, a keen observer of sky conditions who offered a vast regional knowledge of weather history. Ordinary fishermen or farmers could reasonably guess at conditions for a three or four day period; the kilo lani's abilities stretched farther into the future.Hawaiians had many specific names for sky conditions and cloud formations:
- Aopua`a - cumulus clouds of various sizes piled together, like a mother pig with piglets clustered around her. The Kona coast is famous for aopua`a, a sign of good weather and no impending storms.
- Aopehupehu - continually growing cumulus typical of summer. Drifting with the tradewinds, these clouds pick up moisture and darken at their base, finally releasing their rain on the windward mountain cliffs.
- `Ele`ele - black cloud
- Ke`oke`o - white cloud
- Ho’omalumalu - sheltering cloud
- Ho`oweliweli - threatening cloud
- Anuenue - rainbow, a favorable omen
Certain sky conditions led to changes in the weather or the sea. A Western horizon appearing blue-black at sunset would be followed by high surf. An opening in the clouds shaped like a swordfish jaw would lead to rain. An exceedingly black sky with angular thunderheads meant impending thunder, lightning, or a violent storm. These storm elements originated in Kulanihako`i, a mythical lake or pond in the sky.
Fishermen also became adept at reading ocean currents. Surface currents in Hawai`i are generally westward, caused by northeast tradewinds blowing on the ocean surface. Temperature and pressure variations in the water also affect surface currents. Vigorous eddies in the lee of islands, spun as the tradewinds pass the edge of land, can mask deeper currents. Swells are also wind-produced and travel far beyond the area of their origin. A swell from a particular direction can persist for many days or longer and can be used to maintain direction during open ocean sailing.
Tidal currents flow with the rise and fall of the tide, highest at times of new and full moon. Near-shore tidal currents run parallel to shore and may change direction with the tide.Reading the weather
For fishermen, exposed to the elements as they worked while out on the water, reading the weather correctly was critical. Robert Punihaole remembers fishing in years past: "You could predict the weather those days. The olden days, the Hawaiians were smart, they only look up at the mountain and they know. Like we go fishing for `ahi, or kukaula, or `opelu. You stay outside, far, you look to ke ao [the clouds], the kuahiwi, the mountain, you look at the clouds. And the clouds, they tell you, `It's not going to be a good day, you better move on.’ If you hard head, you're going to get it."Rains and winds, like clouds, are called by specific names according to their traits:
Hawaiians also had names for specific regions of the ocean, from the shore to the open sea:
- Ualoa - extended rainstorm
- Uapoko - short rain spell
- Uahea - cold rain
- Makani - general term for wind. The prevailing northwest trade winds of Hawai’i are called moa`e, a`e, a`e loa, mao`e lehua, or mao`e pehu. A leeward wind is a Kona wind.
- Pu`eone - sandy edge of the sea, inshore dunes, outer sand bar
- `Ae kai - water's edge where land and sea meet
- Po`ina nalu / kai po`i - point where waves break
- Kai po`i `ana - sea just outside where surf breaks
- Ka hele ku - second space beyond where surf breaks and where footing may still be found
- Kai kohola - shallow sea inside reef, reef flats, the lagoon
- Kai pualena - yellowish sea, where streams flow in
- Hi aku - sea beyond reef flats and inside deep blue sea
- Kai uli - deep blue sea beyond reef flats
- Moana - ocean, open sea
- Kai-popolohua-mea-a-Kane - purplish-blue reddish-brown sea of Kane, the far reaches of the limitless sea
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