Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chasing Sunshine in an Age of Global Dimming

We marvel at how healthy and happy our seasonal visitors look after just five weeks in the Hawaii sunshine. Looking at their transformation makes us think about how much of our adulthood we have been chasing sunshine. After moving from the tropical island of Java to attend college in Portland, Oregon we learned that researchers were finding that the earth was in an age of global dimming

Studies were finally published in the mid-1980’s about the dramatic decline in solar radiation striking the Earth’ s surface. There was 10 to 15% less sunlight reaching the ground than when we were kids and the dimming was increasing every year. After four years of constant drizzle and grey skies in Portland, we were convinced it was far more than 15%. That was the beginning of our search for sunnier places to live.

PORTLAND, OREGON on average 48% of sunshine days a year

Our first move was south, to Dallas, Texas, where there were more jobs and more sunlight.

DALLAS-FORT WORTH, TEXAS on average 61% of sunshine days a year

Though Dallas was warmer and sunnier than Portland, there was still not enough for us. We moved to the beach communities of Los Angeles County in search of more sunny days.

LOS ANGELES COUNTY, CALIFORNIA on average 73% of sunshine days a year

There were definitely more sunny days, but the Santana winds and smog gave us sore throats and burning eyes for weeks at a time. Eventually, we made our way to New Mexico, where we heard rainbows and sun were the norm.

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO on average 76% of sunshine days a year

The sun in New Mexico was wonderful, but we had to endure nine months of freezing cold temperatures to be in it. To get back to a warmer climate and better job opportunities we moved to Northern California.

SAN FRANCISCO COUNTY, CALIFORNIA on average 66% of sunshine days a year

The jobs were great but the lack of sun affected us even more than earlier and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) became a challenge every winter.

To survive the overcast winters, we started coming to Hawaii to soak up the sun. At first we came for a week, then two and then a month at a time. Hawaii is the ultimate warm and tropical place for us, so we were thrilled when we finally were able to move to the islands. We picked Hilo for its affordability and the many cultural and science events.

HILO, HAWAII on average 41% of sunshine days a year


After living in Hilo, we learned that places in Hawaii vary dramatically in sunshine from place to place on every island. For more sun, we moved to Kona on the west side of Hawaii Island where there are twice as many sunny days.

Kona, HAWAII on average 82% of sunshine days a year

We love how sunny the winters are in Kona. We also like that we are only a 30 minute drive from the Kohala Coast, a desert climate area with even more days of sunshine. On cloudy days in Kona we can drive up to the beach and usually get a huge dose of sunshine.

With the world focus on global warming, there are few studies on global dimming these days, but we notice that every year we age the healing power of sunshine seems greater.

Places in Hawaii vary in days of sunshine, which is something to consider if you are seeking sunshine when vacationing or moving to Hawaii.

HONOLULU, Oahu on average 71% of sunshine days a year
KAHULUI, Maui on average 67% of sunshine days a year
LIHUE, Kauai on average 58% of sunshine days a year

The figures for sunshine were extracted from the NOAA database of average possible days of sunshine.

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