27 March 2023, Federated States of Micronesia - Last week, the Weather Service Office Pohnpei underwent training on development of an Early Action Rainfall Watch (EAR Watch), a bulletin providing early warning of rainfall extremes for the disaster management sector. Training was provided with assistance from the Australian and New Zealand aid funded Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac) and delivered by Australia Bureau of Meteorology and Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP). There were 10 Stakeholders representing disaster management agencies and outer island authorities joined the workshop to discuss ways to channel predictions of extreme rainfall to the community level.
Rainfall extremes are problematic for communities in the Federated States of Micronesia. Prolonged drought associated with the 2015/16 El Niño event led to severe water shortages across most islands. Current dry conditions on the islands of Nukuoro and Kapingamarangi in Pohnpei State have led to widespread crop damage.
“On Kapingamarangi It has been very dry. When you shake the coconuts, there’s very little water inside”, noted MR Juity Hainrich, Mayor Representative, Nukuoro Community. Advanced warning is crucial for communities on outer islands, who are far away from National and State Government services. “We need drought early warning so we can clean our tanks in advance rather than waiting for the drought to begin. The COSPPac programme is a critical need for our communities”.
The EAR Watch could cover all islands in FSM, providing information on current drought status and rainfall predictions for future months. MR Wendolin Lainos, Captain of the Fire and Emergency Services believed the the EAR Watch could help the Disaster Coordinating Office to more effectively pass drought information to the heads of agencies. “The EAR Watch template includes detail on impacts. This would make it easier for the DCO to present drought early warning information to the Governor when needed”.
Simplified infographics, social media posts and radio broadcasts are important for channelling key messages to communities and households. “I hope WSO Pohnpei will adopt the EAR Watch” said MR Rickson Higgins, Disaster Focal Point and Community Liaison with the Department of Education. “The infographics will really help schools in the outer islands. They will be able to request assistance with maintaining water tanks in advance of a drought, so that they can capture any rainfall that comes leading up to a drought”.
The EAR Watch also provides an early ‘heads up’ about upcoming prolonged wet periods. “if we know that the coming months are likely to be very wet, we can train our volunteer network in advance to roll out hygiene campaigns. If they are able to do this before water borne disease outbreaks start, we can avoid a lot of suffering” said MR Morgan David, Disaster Management Officer with the Micronesia Red Cross Society.
The Early Action Rainfall Watch training in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia was held from 23 to 24 March, 2022. This was funded by the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac) which is funded by the Governments of Australia and New Zealand.
For more information about rainfall predictions and the EAR Watch, contact the WSO Pohnpei, at [email protected] or SPREP; [email protected].