Vanuatu Daily News Digest | The potential of this El NinoPosted: October 20, 2015
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
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.
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.
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
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
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