Bad Astronomy

Snowy Hawaii

Mauna Kea
Tropical cooler. Click to haleakenate.

Photo by NASA Earth Observatory/Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey

Now here’s something you don’t see every day: snow in Hawaii!

To be fair, that’s the Mauna Kea volcano on the Big Island, and it tops out at 4,200 meters (13,800 feet). It’s commonly cold up there, of course, but snow is unusual.

The picture is part of a much larger shot taken by the Landsat 8 satellite. By coincidence, my friend and astronomer Mike Brown was at the observatory at the summit and took a lovely photo of it from a more terrestrial viewpoint.

It’s funny to think of Hawaii as getting cold, but when your island goes from sea level to more than a third of the way out of the atmosphere (as measured by pressure, at least), you get a bit of diversity in the weather.