IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


14th August, 2023 Geography

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The devastating wildfires that have been affecting the US state of Hawaii, particularly the island of Maui, since Tuesday, August 9th.


  • Large-scale wildfires have been sweeping the US state of Hawaii since Tuesday (August 9).
  • The death toll has reached 55 as of Friday.
  • Widespread destruction includes downed power lines and over 675 acres of burned land.
  • The town of Lahaina has suffered near-total damage, with State Governor Josh Green comparing it to a bombed area.

Factors Contributing to the Extent of Fires

  • Dry weather and strong winds from a passing hurricane played a significant role in the blaze.
  • Maui County's hazard mitigation plan, last updated in 2020, had identified Lahaina as at risk due to frequent ignitions and vulnerable populations.
  • The region also has a high rate of non-English speakers, potentially limiting effective response during hazards.
  • The emergency warning sirens were not triggered, and mobile alerts were used instead.

Historical Significance of Maui and Lahaina

  • Lahaina was the one-time capital of the former Hawaiian kingdom (1820-1845).
  • It was the royal residence of King Kamehameha, who unified Hawaii.
  • Important historical sites like the Wainee Church and Lahainaluna High School connect to Hawaiian heritage.
  • The town's connection to Native Hawaiians and its role in drafting the Hawaiian Kingdom's Constitution.

Causes of Devastating Fires

  • "Flash droughts" caused by rapid drying of atmospheric moisture aided fire spread.
  • Around 83% of the island was abnormally dry or in moderate to severe drought conditions.
  • Invasive, fire-prone grass species have taken over former pineapple and sugar cane lands.
  • Unusually strong trade winds from Hurricane Dora's impact contributed to fire conditions.
  • Climate change's role in increasing forest fires globally and in Hawaii due to rising temperatures.

Implications and Ongoing Investigation

  • Human factors in evacuation and response are under investigation.
  • Climate-related factors, including flash droughts and strong winds, are being discussed.
  • Climate change's impact on fire frequency and severity in Hawaii.
  • Unanticipated effects of distant hurricanes, like Hurricane Dora's influence on fire occurrence.

About Hawaii

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  • Hawaii is a state located in the Pacific Ocean, comprising an archipelago of islands.
  • It is situated in the central Pacific region, southwest of the continental United States.
  • The state is known for its isolated and unique geographical position.

Islands and Geography

  • Hawaii consists of eight main islands: Hawaii (also known as the Big Island), Maui, Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.
  • Each island has its distinct geography, landscapes, and natural features.

Cultural and Historical Significance

  • The islands were originally settled by Polynesians, and their cultural heritage is deeply rooted in the native Hawaiian traditions.
  • The arrival of Western explorers, missionaries, and eventual colonization significantly impacted Hawaiian society and culture.
  • Hawaii's historical significance includes being the royal capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii before it became a U.S. territory.

Statehood and Government

  • Hawaii became the 50th state of the United States on August 21, 1959.
  • It operates under a state government structure, with an elected governor and state legislature.
  • The state capital is Honolulu, located on the island of Oahu.

Economy and Industries

  • Hawaii has a diverse economy that includes tourism, agriculture, defense, and technology sectors.
  • Tourism is a major industry, attracting millions of visitors annually to enjoy its beaches, landscapes, and cultural attractions.
  • Agriculture, including the cultivation of crops like sugarcane, pineapples (historically), and coffee, has played a significant role.

Natural Beauty and Biodiversity

  • Hawaii is renowned for its stunning natural beauty, characterized by lush rainforests, volcanic landscapes, and picturesque beaches.
  • The islands are home to unique and diverse ecosystems, with numerous endemic species of plants and animals.

Volcanic Activity and Landforms

  • The Hawaiian islands are of volcanic origin, with active and dormant volcanoes shaping the landscapes.
  • Kilauea and Mauna Loa on the Big Island are among the world's most active volcanoes, contributing to the islands' dynamic geology.

Cultural Diversity and Heritage

  • Hawaii's population is ethnically and culturally diverse, influenced by Polynesian, Asian, European, and American cultures.
  • Native Hawaiian culture and traditions remain an integral part of the state's identity.

Languages and Society

  • English is the primary language, but Hawaiian is also spoken and recognized.
  • Hawaii's society reflects a blend of cultural practices, customs, and values from its multi-ethnic population.

Environmental Challenges

  • Hawaii faces environmental challenges, including habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change impacts such as rising sea levels and increased frequency of extreme weather events.


Q) Examine the recent large-scale wildfires in the US state of Hawaii, analyzing the factors contributing to their extent, the historical significance of the affected area, and the multifaceted causes behind the devastating fires. (150 words)