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Hawaii - Enviornment

Hawaii Environment

The US state of Hawaii lies 1470 miles (2367 km) north of the equator and 2500 miles (4025 km) southwest of the nearest continental land mass, North America. The six main islands are part of a 128-island archipelago stretching 1523 miles (2452 km) from Kure Atoll in the northwest to the Big Island in the southwest. The main islands include Oahu, and the Neighbor Islands of Maui, Kauai, the Big Island (Hawaii), Molokai and Lanai. The islands are the tips of massive mountains, created by a crack in the earth's mantle which has been spewing molten rock for 25 million years. The Big Island, Hawaii's southernmost, is still in the birthing process. Its most active volcano, Kilauea, has pumped out more than two billion cubic yards of lava in the past 12 years.

The native flora and fauna species of these isolated islands evolved with limited competition and few predators, so has fared particularly badly against more aggressive species introduced by early Polynesian settlers and Westerners. The islands are home to thousands of species, but of the 2400 native plant species remaining, almost half are endangered. It's a happier story in the sea. Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins and whales are year-round residents, though it's the huge, migrating humpback whales that everyone wants to see. Hawaii has only two national parks - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park.

The climate in Hawaii is fantastic. It's balmy and warm, with northeasterly trade winds prevailing most of the year. Near the coast, average highs are a pleasant 80°F (27°C), and the difference between summer and winter average temperatures is a meager five or 10 degrees. The rainiest period is between December and March. In general, the driest, sunniest conditions and the calmest waters are on the southwesterly, or leeward, side of the islands. Conversely, the northeasterly, or windward, side of the islands receive decent rainfalls: Hilo, the rainiest city in the USA, is on the windward side of the Big Island.

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