If you grew up watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, when you hear “trade winds,” you probably thought of the cartoon where he sings about them. Nice, quiet, gentle, playful breeze, right?
HE LIED! There ain’t NOTHING gentle about “trade winds!”
Now it probably helps to consider they were called “trade winds” because they were winds favorable for trade to happen – which when the term was coined, was done by ships. With sails. BIG ships with BIG sails. LOTS of sails.
Now I have NO idea how much wind it takes to shove a tall-masted wooden boat like the USS Constitution (the original United States Navy warship, not the United Federation of Planets starship) along, but with a name like “Old Ironsides,” it probably took more than a light breeze.
What the weather forecaster in Hawaii calls “trade winds” are 17-20 mile-per-hour steady winds in Molokai. In a lot of places, that actually will move dirt in places that don’t regularly get wind. The Beaufort Wind Force Scale places this at 5 (“fresh breeze” – probably so-called because it is QUITE capable of lifting skirts) on the 12-point Beaufort Scale. 12 would be hurricane – as you can see, those “gentle trade winds” are well on their way to a hurricane!
These “playful trade winds” have gusts that are frequent – and howl a full 10 miles-per-hour harder – on a day like today, that’s 30 miles-per-hours. This would be the top-end of Beaufort Scale 6 (“Strong Breeze” – and halfway to hurricane – and you get a warning flag to go with that)(make it to 31 and you got yourself a moderate gale, Beaufort Scale 7, and MORE than half-way to a hurricane, Popeye).
Even on Molokai, THAT’S enough to move Mokokai’s world-famous “red dirt” (correctly called “laterite soil,” a clay-like soil said to have gotten that way from the oxidation of black iron oxide into red iron oxide that were once molten lava(hikers are cautioned not to wear white clothing as it is permanently staining), so basically you are talking about getting hit by an old rusty iron bar).
And sand. Most beaches have sand made of quartz, coral, iron and other minerals. Hawaii’s islands are all volcanic, so they THEIR white beaches are made of “the carbonate shells of marine organisms. Disintegrated shells of sea life that wasn’t successful enough to avoid being eaten or live forever, beaten-to-a-pulp coral that broke-off – and once-chomped coral. It seems the parrot fish, which helps keep Hawaii’s reefs clean and healthy by eating algae, also get a bit of coral in the process, grind it up (“Jaws” has nothing on THESE guys), and it… ummm… passes through their… ummmm… digestive tract. Just ONE parrot fish can… ummmm… contribute… 198-pounds a year worth of “sand.”
Yes – as Pony wisely observed, you ARE walking on parrot fish poop on the beaches of Molokai.
And when those “gentle trade winds” hit 30 – all that AND the powdered remains of one-time iron bars – are hitting you square in the face. And eyes.
Gentle my a&$! Ain’t nothing “gentle” about that EITHER!
You Can’t Know TOO Much and I Know You Wanted to Ask: Hawaii’s black sand beaches are made from lava; the red ones are made from iron-ore rich volcanoes; the green ones are from basaltic lava rich in olivine, a semi-precious stone, that has been ground-up over time by the ocean; and one beach’s “sand” is actually trash (“Glass Beach” is made of old broken bottles and auto glass, smoothed into “sea glass” pebbles).