Atmospheres 45: Weatherquest Hawaii Maui Mountain Cruisers


When we got to shore we made plans to visit the top of a volcano, and that meant an early wake up call—2 a.m. to be exact.

Our pre-dawn destination was Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the south eastern half of Maui.

Joel Taylor (Weatherquest Winner): We’re fixin’ to head up to the top of this mountain here. We’re gonna be biking down this morning. I was told it’s pretty chilly up there and I was dumb enough to wear shorts, so I may get a little cold.

Along the mountain trail the temperature usually drops 3–5°F for every 1000-foot increase in altitude. We were on our way up to 10,000 feet, which meant the temperature up top would be anywhere from 30-50°s cooler. The only way back down… was by bike.

At about 6 a.m. the temperature bottomed out at a brisk 45°F, but that was standing still—before we started the 38-mile ride with MAUI MOUNTAIN CRUISERS.

Jim Cantore (Meterologist/Atmospheres Host): Of course as we’re rolling down here the old wind chill’s pickin’ right up. Ooh, man… it’s a little nippy… nippy on the face.

A couple thousand feet and several shivers, later we were on the sunny side of the volcano where the climate started to improve.

Jim: Man does this sun feel good. The temperature has really warmed up since we left the top. It was really chilly up there. It was about 45 degrees and now we’re down probably a couple thousand feet, and the temperature’s warmed up—probably in the mid-60s.

Jason: Yah, this is great! Teeth were chattering up there.

Jim: Oh you’re teeth were? (Laughs)

Jason: Ya, so much for the 105°F in Oklahoma city huh?

At about 7 a.m., just below 7000-feet, we hit the tree line. The highest altitude at which tree’s will grow on the island. We passed through a forest of pine—just like you might find in New England.

Jim: A lot of people don’t realize this, but there’s a bunch of climates as you go from sea level all the way up to 10,000 feet. And it doesn’t matter where you are, whether you’re in Hawaii or wherever… it warms up as you go down. And it cools off as you go up.

At 6,000 feet, we stop to peel off some layers. The temperature was up to a balmy 67°.

Jim: Whooo, beautiful!

Jason: Feelin’ good baby, feelin’ good!

Oddly enough, there was no precipitation while we biked down Haleakala. We expected at least some moisture through the cloud deck, but the skies were clear. Mark Eastburg, one of our guides, said we should count our blessings.

When we’re riding through a cloud, we lose our visibility—you have zero visibility, and a lot of times the rain is so thick that people have glasses on, they have trouble, they fog up and can’t see. But probably the biggest problem we have is the wind. You know It’s a gravity fed sport and you get head winds coming in at you nobody’s rolling at all or we get light riders and side winds coming in we can blow ‘em right over.

Jason: Jim Cantore’s a slow poke!

Jim: We’re rolling by sugar cane and pineapple plantations. All the stuff that we saw on the top of Haleakala. And also we’re gettin’ into the trade wind here. Down below the inversion it’s a little bit more windy… and we are gettin’ it.

Jason: Got a really nice island breeze blowing on us right now. Headed downhill about a thousand feet to the ocean where we’re supposed to eat breakfast this morning. really lookin’ forward to that, I’m gettin’ pretty hungry.

As we neared the bottom it was almost nine o’clock. 38 miles in three hours, now that’s how to work up an appetite.

Copyright © 2000 The Weather Channel