Submitted by leannem on Fri, 04/29/2022 - 13:27
April 29, 2022 by leannem
Climate Change Resilience

26 April 2022, Apia – Representatives of Pacific National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and partner agencies came together during the tenth session of the Pacific Island Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF-10) to review climate and oceans conditions in the Pacific from the past six months and provide outlook guidance for the next six months.

  The PICOF is based on the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Regional Climate Outlook Forum (RCOF) concept, and is co-organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and WMO. Technical assistance is provide by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), APEC Climate Centre (APCC), Pacific Community (SPC), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Research (NOAA) and the University of Hawaii, which make up the Pacific Regional Climate Network, in partnership with the Pacific Island Climate Services Panel of the Pacific Meteorological Council and the NMHSs . 

The meeting is supported by the Pacific Island Development Program (PIDP) of the East-West Centre based in Hawaii. It convenes twice a year – once in April at the start of the dry season for the south-west Pacific, and the tropical cyclone season for the northern Pacific, which is the session that took place this week through the virtual platform, Zoom. The second RCOF is normally held in October for the southwest Pacific cyclone season.  

  The WMO Representative for the Southwest Pacific, Mr Henry Taiki, said the RCOFs have demonstrated many benefits over the last two decades. 

  “These benefits include the promotion of broad awareness and acceptance of seasonal forecasts; improvements in Members’ capacities to develop and interpret such forecasts; and the provision of useful information for decision-making at the national level,” Mr Taiki said. 

  Speaking on behalf of the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, and the current Chair of the Pacific Meteorological Council, Dr Luteru Tauvale, Director of the Samoa Meteorological Service, acknowledged the importance of continuing to provide information to keep Pacific people informed and prepared during these unprecedented times. 

  “During this difficult time when COVID-19 levels are different for countries in the Pacific, relevant and timely climate information is important for governments to make decisions on how to live with this virus in different climate or weather extreme events,” Dr Tauvale said. 

  “Our region went through a La Niña event in the past six months, which saw our people experience firsthand the effects of droughts in countries like Kiribati, Nauru, and Tuvalu, as well as flooding and landslides in Palau, Fiji, Vanuatu and Solomon Islands,” he added. 

  “As we prepare to enter another tropical cyclone season for countries in the northern Pacific under the influence of a weaker La Niña event eventually returning to neutral state in the coming months, we need to step back and evaluate our efforts, especially the accuracy of the information and how this is communicated to those who need information for decision making.” 

  Climate experts from APCC, BOM, SPREP, NIWA, NOAA and SPC presented the review of climate and ocean conditions over the past six months, which allowed participants to evaluate the accuracy of forecast from the previous PICOF-9 held in October 2021.  

A La Niña event, a phenomenon in which stronger trade winds enhance the warm pool in the western Pacific, was predicted during PICOF-9. La Nina did eventuate, resulting in lower-than-normal rainfall for island groups in the central and equatorial Pacific, and wetter than normal conditions for islands in the south-west Pacific.

  Climate models are currently showing the El Nino-Southern Oscillation, a climate driver that influences rainfall, temperature and sea level patterns across the Pacific, moving towards neutral as the La Niña starts to unwind. 

  The predictions from the PICOF-9 statement were observed to be good forecasts and consistent with La Niña event – rainfall forecasts of drier than normal for islands near/west of the Date Line and near equator while wetter than normal conditions between Palau and central Republic of the Marshall Islands and from southeast Papua New Guinea to southern French Polynesia. 

Temperatures were warmer than normal for many islands groups except near the equator and east of the Date Line, and winds were stronger than normal easterly airflow along the equator; more northerlies extending into the western Pacific in the Southern Hemisphere.  Tropical cyclones occurrences were also consistent with the forecast for an enhanced risk for tropical cyclone activity in the western part of the basin and reduce chances father east.  

  The 11th Session of the PICOF is expected to be held in October, prior to the start of the tropical cyclone season for the south-west Pacific and the dry season for the northern Pacific. 

  For more information, please contact the Pacific Meteorological Desk Partnership, at [email protected]