For the first time, trends of five climate change indices related to extreme precipitation events in the Hawaiian Islands are investigated using daily observational records from the 1950s to 2007. Four indices [simple daily intensity index (SDII), total number of day with precipitation ≥25.4 mm (R25), annual maximum consecutive 5-day precipitation amount (R5d), and the fraction of annual total precipitation from events exceeding the 1961–90 95th percentile (R95p)] describe the intensity (SDII), frequency (R25), and magnitude (R5d and R95p) of precipitation extremes, and the fifth index [consecutive dry days (CDD)] describes drought conditions. The annual probability density functions (PDFs) of precipitation indices for two epochs (i.e., 1950–79 and 1980–2007) are analyzed. Since the 1980s, there has been a change in the types of precipitation intensity, resulting in more frequent light precipitation and less frequent moderate and heavy precipitation intensity. The other three precipitation-related indices (R25, R5d, and R95p) demonstrate a shift toward the left of the distribution over time, suggesting shorter annual number of days with intense precipitation and smaller consecutive 5-day precipitation amounts and smaller fraction of annual precipitation due to events exceeding the 1961–90 95th percentile in the recent epoch relative to the first epoch. The changes of PDF distribution for SDII, R25, R5d, and CDD are significant at the 5% level according to a two-sample Kolmogorov–Smirnov test.
A nonparametric trend analysis is then performed for four periods, with different starting years (e.g., the 1950s, the 1960s) but the same ending year (2007). Long-term downward trends are evident for four precipitation-related indices, and long-term upward trends are observed for CDD. Geographically, Kauai and Oahu are dominated by long-term decreasing trends for four precipitation-related indices, while increasing trends play the major role over the island of Hawaii. The upward trends of drought conditions in the long run are predominant on all the major Hawaiian Islands.
To investigate whether the trends are stable throughout the time, the derivatives of trends for each of the 30-yr running series are calculated (e.g., 1950–79, 1951–80, … , 1978–2007) for four precipitation-related indices at each station. For Kauai and Oahu, positive derivatives prevail for all indices in the presence of long-term negative trends, suggestive of a phase change in precipitation extremes and such extremes showing an upswing recently. For the island of Hawaii, there is also an indication of phase reversal over the last 60 yr, with negative derivatives occurring in the presence of the background positive trends.
A positive relationship is found between the precipitation indices and the Southern Oscillation index (SOI), implying more precipitation extremes during La Niña years and vice versa for El Niño years. Spatial patterns of standardized anomalies of indices are presented for the La Niña/−PDO minus El Niño/+PDO composites.