21 April 2021, Apia, Samoa – With the Pacific having recently gone through a La Niña event, representatives of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) from across the Pacific, as well as their partners from regional organisations and scientific institutions, came together in a virtual meeting this week. This saw them reflect on their efforts to help keep people informed during the La Niña, as well as to present and summarise the climate and ocean observations over the last six months, and what the climate outlooks will like for the next six months.
The Eighth Pacific Island Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF-8) was convened virtually on the 21st April 2021. The overall objective being to produce consensus-based, user-relevant climate outlook guidance in real time for the season ahead and provide guidance to reduce climate-related risks to the Pacific.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa and also the Chair of the Pacific Meteorological Council (PMC), Ms Frances Brown-Reupena, recognised that despite the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the work of NMHSs and partners must continue.
“Over the past months, we’ve been through the La Niña event in the Pacific and we have experienced firsthand its effects when coupled with tropical cyclones. Now, as both the La Niña and tropical cyclone season comes to an end, we need to step back and evaluate our efforts, especially the accuracy of the information and how this is communicated to those who need it for decision making,” Ms Brown-Reupena said.
“The PICOF is a regional platform where technical institutes and Pacific meteorological services share information about climate predictions and its likely impacts. And with the technical support of the partners and NMHSs, we are working together with the media to reach the last mile and better communicate weather, climate and climate change information for the public,” she added.
“Our role, as NMHSs, is not only for tailoring information, but to also make this information available for our users, using different platforms.”
Ms Brown-Reupena encouraged the participants to engage in frank discussions on where the science can best serve National Met Services to inform the sectors and the Pacific peoples. She asked that they all share ideas on how they can improve information exchange and discuss ways forward on how NMHSs can utilise climate information to the benefit of all.
The virtual PICOF8 provided an opportunity for NMHSs experts to compare forecast guidance for the Pacific region and discuss how these are produced in terms of accuracy, utility, weaknesses and strength. The PICOF also helps to build collaboration and partnerships among NMHSs, regional organisations, and scientific institutions as the Pacific works towards establishing a Pacific Island Regional Climate Centre (PI-RCC).
It also aimed to continue capacity building and human resource development activities for the Pacific region, particularly in seasonal prediction, and to provide a platform for the NMHSs to share and exchange experiences and knowledge on climate and ocean services in the Pacific region.
The PICOF was traditionally convened once a year in October, until a review found that one PICOF a year is not enough to provide much needed information on the state of the climate in the Pacific. Thus, last year saw two PICOFs convened, the first in April (end of the Wet Season and beginning of the dry seasons for the South Pacific) and the second in October (end of the dry season and beginning of the wet/cyclone season for the South Pacific), and will be the case going forward.
A regional statement summarising the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) state, which is the major cause of year-to-year climate variability in the Pacific; tropical cyclone, climate and ocean patterns from November 2020 and outlooks for these variables to October 2021 is expected to be released next week, as an outcome of the PICOF-8.
The PICOF8 was held on 21 April, 2021 and was coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) in collaboration with the PMC’s Pacific Island Climate Services Panel.
For more information, please contact the Pacific Meteorological Desk Partnership team, at [email protected].