Mostly bright Hawaiian Christmas Day expected for Big Island

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A webcam image from 10:50 a.m. Friday looking northeast from the catwalk at Subaru Telescope on Maunakea.

Unlike last year, when a Kona Low brought a ton of snow to the Big Island’s summits just in time for the holiday, it’s not looking good for a white Christmas this year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines a white Christmas as having at least 1 inch of snow on the ground on Dec. 25.

Now, only patches of snow are atop Maunakea — primarily the remnants of a late November storm system that brought several inches of the white stuff. Since then, only a few dustings of snow have occurred.

Forecast meteorologist Ryan Lyman with the Maunakea Weather Center said the atmosphere above the 13,803-foot mountain is expected to dry out this weekend and well into next week, with temperatures expected to warm up.

“Any snowfall accumulation will be quite trace over the next 48 hours and almost certainly melt prior to Christmas,” Lyman said on Wednesday. “Same goes for Mauna Loa.”

  • Webcam image from 10:54 a.m. Friday looking north from the Canada-France-Hawai’i Telescope on Maunakea.
  • Webcam image from 10:55 a.m. Friday looking from the front door of the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility atop Maunakea.

For much of East Hawaiʻi this past week, it’s been cloudy, chilly and wet, perfect weather to celebrate the winter solstice on Thursday. But better weather is on its way, with increased sunshine, fewer showers and easing trade winds expected through the holiday weekend for the entire state.

On Christmas Eve, the Hilo area can expect scattered showers, mainly before noon. Partly sunny conditions will take over later, with a high near 80 degrees. Showers again are likely before midnight under mostly cloudy skies, with a low of about 66. Rainfall is expected to be less than a tenth of an inch each time.

On Christmas in Hilo, showers again are forecast mainly before noon, but the afternoon should see partly sunny skies and a high near 78. Scattered showers are possible later that night under mostly cloudy skies, with a low of about 67.

  • Hilo high and low temperatures so far for the month of December. (Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
  • Hilo rainfall so far for the month of December. (Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

The west side of the Big Island has been drier the past week, and that looks to continue heading into Christmas.

The Kailua-Kona area will see mostly sunny skies and a chance for only isolated showers on Christmas Eve, with a high near 83 degrees. Scattered showers could develop before midnight, but skies will be otherwise partly cloudy with a low of about 72.


Christmas Day on the Kona side will be partly sunny with a high near 82 degrees. Partly cloudy conditions will continue overnight with a low of about 71.

  • High and low temperatures so far for the month of December in the Kona/Keahole area. (Courtesy of the National Weather Service)
  • Kona/Keahole rainfall totals so far for the month of December. (Courtesy of the National Weather Service)

The Kailua-Kona area has received just 0.07 inches of rain so far this month, or 0.66 inches less than normal by this time in December.

You can check your local forecast for the Christmas holiday weekend on the National Weather Service website.

Maybe not the ‘Christmas Star,’ but still grabbing attention

With skies expected to at least clear out somewhat for the east part of the island and continued good conditions for the west, skywatchers might notice a bright star or two appearing as dusk fades. However, they’re not stars at all, but instead planets in our solar system.

Jupiter and Saturn are the first objects to appear in the night sky, even as early as 6:30 p.m. The brightest of the two is Jupiter, which as the the largest and closest gas giant planet to Earth stands out as one of the brightest objects in the sky.


“Right now, the planet Jupiter is pretty close to the center of the sky just after sunset,” said said Emily Peavy, senior planetarium educator and technician at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center in Hilo.

Saturn is accompanying Jupiter towards the eastern sky.

Sky chart showing Jupiter and Saturn to the southwest in the Dec. 21 night sky. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

In 2020, a rare conjunction, when any two astronomical objects such as asteroids, moons, planets and stars appear to be close together in the sky, as observed from Earth, of the two planets occurred on the winter solstice and many people referred to the event as a “Christmas Star.”

“This is also due to the fact that there is a hypothesis that a conjunction of these planets could have been a sign that astrologers, [or] ‘wise men,’ would have followed,” Peavy said.

It was the closest the two planets had appeared together in about 800 years, according to a Dec. 21, 2020, article on It won’t occur again for another nearly 60 years, in 2080.

A similar conjunction of the two planets, as noted by Johannes Kepler in the 17th century, happened in 7 BCE, leading to the thought that it could have been the astronomical origin of the Star of Bethlehem.

While Peavy hasn’t heard of any reference to a “Christmas Star” this year, Jupiter and Saturn appearing after dusk along with Venus rising just before sunrise in the east all “are very bright and would definitely be grabbing attention in the sky right now.”

Nathan Christophel
Nathan Christophel is a full-time reporter with Pacific Media Group. He has more than 25 years of experience in journalism as a reporter, copy editor and page designer. He previously worked at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald in Hilo. Nathan can be reached at [email protected]
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