Vanuatu Daily News Digest | The potential of this El Nino

Regional Statement on the El Niño and Potential

Impacts for the Pacific Islands

Issued on the 16th October 2015

A strong El Niño is currently in place with wide and varying impacts across the Pacific

Islands region(see map, appended). El Niño will continue to have a significant influence on

the climate and ocean in most parts of the Pacific Islands region for the remainder of 2015

and much of 2016.

El Niño Status and Outlook:

Tropical central and eastern Pacific sea surface temperatureshave warmed significantly in

recent months and are now at levels not seen since the 1997–98 El Niñoevent.Tropical

cloudiness has shifted eastwardsfrom the Indonesian region.The trade winds near the

equator have been consistently weaker than normal. Sea level has decreased in the western

Pacific, with increases in parts of the central Pacific.

El Niño is likely to be at its maximum strength towards the end of 2015, but will remain in

place into the first half of 2016. Most El Niño events peaklate in the year in which they

develop and slowly degrade in the first half of the following year. As every El Niño is different

it is possible the duration, maximum strength and degrading stages may be different to past

events.

Some Potential Impacts:

Historically, El Niño has caused reduced rainfall in the southwest Pacific (from southern

Papua New Guinea southeast to the southern Cook Islands) and enhanced rainfall in the

central and eastern Pacific (e.g. Tuvalu, Kiribati, Tokelau and Nauru). Also, the number of

tropical cyclonesand their preferred tracks are usuallyaffected by El Niño (see below). So,

there is a risk of extreme rainfall events even where drier than normal conditions are

forecast.El Niño events have also been associated with an increased risk of coral bleaching

and changes in tuna catch.Note, impacts vary from event-to-event and across the region.

Typhoon/Tropical Cyclone Outlook:

The risk of a typhoon in the western and central north Pacificis above normalfor the

remainder of 2015. Most of these islands will have a high risk(1-in-3 chance) of serious

effects from some combination of high winds, storm surges, large waves, and/or extreme

rainfall associated with a typhoon.

In the southwest Pacific, tropical cyclone activity is expected to be above normal for the

2015–16 season. Tropical cyclone numbers areexpected to be elevated for a majority of the

Pacific Island countries close to or east of the International Date Line, and their tracks may

be less predictable. Below average numbers are favoured in the Coral Sea region.

Rainfall and Drought:

Drier than normal conditions are already being experienced in parts of the southwest Pacific

and north Pacific. These conditions are likely to continue for several months. It is likely that

some of these locations will experience a prolonged drought in the year ahead. In contrast,

above normal rainfall is likely to continue in the central equatorial Pacific.

Air and Sea SurfaceTemperature:

As island climates are strongly associated with the surrounding ocean temperatures the

outlooks for these two variables are likely to be similar. Above normal air and sea surface

temperatures are likely in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. Below normal air and

sea surface temperatures are likely in Micronesia andfrom Vanuatu southeast to the

southern Cook Islands.

Sea Level:

Current sea level in the western tropical Pacific is below normal, and continued below

normal to well below normal sea level is forecast for this region for several months.Low sea

levels can result in severe coral bleaching events (see below). Central and eastern Pacific

regions are forecast to continue to have normal to above normal sea levels, increasing the

risk of coastal flooding from storms, very high tides and other phenomena.

Coral Bleaching:

For the fourth quarter of 2015, thermal stress-related bleaching is forecast to expand across

the central Pacific. Localised bleaching associated with low sea level stands has been widely

reportedand is expected to continue at least through the end of the calendar year. The

current bleaching event is likely to result in disease and death of corals through2016 into

early 2017.

Impacts on Drinking Water Supplies:

Maintaining access to safe drinking water and sanitation is already a daily challenge for

many Pacific communities relying on small and fragile water resources. The unfolding El

Niño event has the potential for significant water-related impacts for many communities

across the region – with likely conditions varying according to location and local

circumstances.

Across the Pacific, National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, Disaster

Management Offices, water departments and civil society groups such as the Red Cross

have been active in identifying water-related risks to urban and rural communities, and can

assist in community preparedness and response activities. For communities with a history of

water-related impacts associated with El Niño events, now is the time to prepare for and

respond to potentially abnormally drier or wetter conditions (depending upon the typical

impact) – at the household, village, island and national levels.

Gutter maintenance and water conservation can help ensure that every drop of rainfall is

captured and used wisely. Even small reductions in daily water use can help maintain

precious rain or groundwater reserves throughout periods of low rainfall. Maintaining good

hygiene practices such as boiling drinking water and hand washing can help avert the worst

health impacts of both above and below normal rainfall. Local drought and flood

management plans can help clarify roles, keep track of developing conditions, and mobilise

responses to those most in need.

Planning and preparation is key, as simple actions taken now can lessen impacts and help

communities avoid or withstand the worst impacts of El Niño.

Sources of Information:

For more detailed information about the potential local impacts of this El Niño, please

contact your National Meteorological and Hydrological Service, Disaster Management Office,

water departments and civil society groups.

This statement was produced at the first Pacific Island Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF) held

on the 12th to the 16th of October at the University of the South Pacific. The forum had a

specific focus on the current El Niño, regional and national climate outlooks and impacts on

the water sector.Representatives at the forum were from regional organisations, National

Meteorological and Hydrological Services, national water sectorsand UN organisations.

This statement is consistent with the Nuku’alofa Ministerial Declaration for Sustainable

Weather and Climate Services for the Resilient Pacific, which recognised the importance of

Meteorological and Hydrological Services in support of relevant national needs, including

protection of life and property, sustainable development and safeguarding the environment.

The same noted that weather and climate services are not an option but are a responsibility

and a basic human right.

Contact for related information: pacmetdesk

[ENDS]


3 Comments on “Vanuatu Daily News Digest | The potential of this El Nino”

  1. David Stein says:

    Dear Vanuatu Daily Digest

    As indicated in your post…the region, including parts of Vanuatu, is experiencing severe drought conditions due to an El Nino event. I would like to suggest that the solar powered desalination of seawater may be worth considering as a solution, or at least a partial solution, to access to drinking water issues…especially in coastal communities. I would be happy to assist with a solar powered seawater desalination project as I have extensive experience with the technology and more than 18 years of experience living and working in Vanuatu.

    A few more details…there is a low cost, low tech, solar powered desalination solution to the access to drinking water problem. I believe that this solution is ideal for coastal communities in the Pacific.

    The following is excerpted from something I wrote in the recent past:

    Isn’t it funny that an island, a place surrounded by water, should ever know a water shortage? Maybe we will truly know paradise when we can change salt water into drinking water. Humankind has been dreaming this dream throughout history. Our early efforts to desalt seawater were frustrating. Our recent efforts, though successful, are typically expensive.

    However, we can desalinate seawater using little more than sunshine with a process called solar distillation. Solar distillation works on the principles of evaporation and condensation and mimics the way rain is made. Input water can be seawater and/or dirty water while the output water is fresh and very pure, like rain water.

    Best regards,

    David Stein

    Like

  2. CC says:

    The weather is just as crazy as ever, here in Australia we have rain up to our ears followed by dry spells. We have to adapt by building dams, with rain harvesting tank, we can’t change the weather but we can adapt and survive. It does rain but not when we need it, so we keep it in a way we can use when needed.

    Like

  3. David Stein says:

    As indicated in your post…the region, including parts of Vanuatu, is experiencing severe drought conditions due to an El Nino event. I would like to suggest that the solar powered desalination of seawater may be worth considering as a solution, or at least a partial solution, to access to drinking water issues…especially in coastal communities. I would be happy to assist with a solar powered seawater desalination project as I have extensive experience with the technology and more than 18 years of experience living and working in Vanuatu.

    A few more details…there is a low cost, low tech, solar powered desalination solution to the access to drinking water problem. I believe that this solution is ideal for coastal communities in the Pacific.

    The following is excerpted from something I wrote in the recent past:

    Isn’t it funny that an island, a place surrounded by water, should ever know a water shortage? Maybe we will truly know paradise when we can change salt water into drinking water. Humankind has been dreaming this dream throughout history. Our early efforts to desalt seawater were frustrating. Our recent efforts, though successful, are typically expensive.

    However, we can desalinate seawater using little more than sunshine with a process called solar distillation. Solar distillation works on the principles of evaporation and condensation and mimics the way rain is made. Input water can be seawater and/or dirty water while the output water is fresh and very pure, like rain water.

    Best regards,

    David Stein

    Like