Since the last week of January, the weather atop Mauna Kea has been,
“atrocious” in the words of Gemini North’s Head of Science Operations
Inger Jørgensen. “Since the night starting on January 28th we have been
on the sky only once for a total of 2.3 hours!” she reports.
As of February 7th, the snow and ice on Mauna Kea continue to plague the
summit area and crews have been working almost continuously to keep the
observatories accessible for optimistic night-crews. Ron Koehler of
Mauna Kea Support Services said, “This winter has really worn out the
road crew. They have been working 7 days a week to open the roads to the
observatories only to be faced with the same view of a snow covered road
the next day. It is a nightmare for them facing a deja vu on top of deja
Meanwhile, below in Hilo (and much of Hawai‘i), the rains have been
extremely heavy. One area of the Big Island received over 46” of rain in
a 72 hour period and extended periods of lightning and thunder have
been common throughout the state. The system that created this situation
consists of two troughs of low pressure at each end of the island chain
that have remained quasi-stationary for an extended period and have been
responsible for pumping nearly continuous moisture over Hawai‘i from the
“Obviously when we get a situation like this the observing queue becomes
as stationary as this weather pattern,” said Jørgensen who is the
primary staff-person responsible for queue scheduling at Gemini North.
“This winter has been especially stormy on Mauna Kea and we’ve had an
especially high number of unusable nights so far,” said Gemini’s Head of
Science Jean-Rene Roy. Previous snowfall and cloudy weather during the
2007-8 winter have proven to be a challenge this year for all of the
Mauna Kea observatories.
Typical road report:
Summit Road conditon update 2:30 pm Feb 6 2008
The conditions remain poor at the summit. The road crew will conduct
one more pass between Ukirt to IRTF and will be finished for the day,
returning tomorrow morning. The road is open to observatory vehicles
with chains. Visibility is limited. Snow is still blowing, foggy,
drifting. Use caution.