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Lightning streaks across Honolulu night sky in rare Hawaii storm outbreak

You don’t see this every day in Hawaii, and especially not during the winter months: big-time thunderstorms erupting over parts of Hawaii, including Honolulu.

Photographer Anthony Quintano captured a vigorous storm and its lightning illuminating Honolulu’s skyline Monday night into Tuesday. “Woke up to an awesome light show as a storm cell popped up southeast of Honolulu,” he posted to Instagram.

Hail was even reported on the islands as the storms moved onshore early in the week, and there were several reports of waterspouts captured off Maui.

Maui waterspouts

Amazing video of waterspouts off Maui today! Mahalos Mitchell Craig for capturing the moment!

Posted by Justin Cruz on Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Okay, I know what you’re thinking, “waterspouts and hail happen all the time in thunderstorms.” True! But not in Hawaii. Downpours are common during the rainy winter season, but explosive storms are not.

The very warm and tropical maritime climate keeps the atmosphere over Hawaii stable most of the year. For severe weather to occur, a strong low-pressure system is necessary to generate instability and comes around only once in a great while.

But earlier this week, low pressure hovered over the region, which would allow warm, moist air to rapidly ascend into the colder air aloft forming thunderclouds. The National Weather Service in Honolulu frequently mentioned the presence of sufficient atmospheric instability for hail in the stronger storms.

The most intense storms, which prompted severe thunderstorm warnings, occurred over the Big Island.

The three severe thunderstorm warnings issued by the Weather Service in Honolulu were the first during February in 12 years. Before this February, you have to go back to February 2006, when two warnings were issued.

On average, the Weather Service in Honolulu issues only 3.6 severe thunderstorm warning per year, and less than one tornado warning. Since 2005, it has only issued two tornado warnings, the last instance in December 2008.

Weather is awesome. #cwgpicoftheweek

Huge thank you to photographer Anthony Quintano for sharing his photo with us this week. For more of his epic natural photography, check out his Instagram page!