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Originally published Monday, October 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Hawaii volcano dusted with snow

Mauna Kea volcano on Big Island of Hawaii gets season's first snow

HILO, Hawaii — Snow fell atop Mauna Kea for the first time this season over the weekend, but it melted two hours later.

The Big Island volcano's 13,796-foot summit often gets snow, but this year's first snowfall came before the arrival of wintry weather, which usually begins around Thanksgiving or early December, said National Weather Service forecaster Eric Lau.

About an inch fell Saturday morning, leading the Mauna Kea Weather Station to issue an advisory that the road to the summit was closed. But the road reopened by about 9 a.m. as the warming day melted the covering.

The Big Island volcano's summit often gets snow, but this year's first snowfall came before the arrival of wintry weather, which usually begins around Thanksgiving or early December, said National Weather Service forecaster Eric Lau.

The snow is fun to watch, but it hinders scientists trying to look at the stars from their telescopes on top of the mountain. Mauna Kea houses 12 of the world's leading observatories for optical, infrared, and submillimeter astronomy.

Astronomers with the W.M. Keck Observatory telescopes on the summit watched the snow start at about 1 a.m. Saturday, but the night was a wash for science.

Three hours later, astronomers reluctantly wrote off hopes the sky would clear. The night's low temperature stood at 28 degrees Fahrenheit.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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