ACS  Vol.4 No.5 , December 2014
Extreme Weather and Climate Events and Their Impacts on Island Countries in the Western Pacific: Cyclones, Floods and Droughts
ABSTRACT

Increases in the frequency of extreme weather and climate events and the severity of their impacts on the natural environment and society have been observed across the globe in recent decades. In addition to natural climate variability and greenhouse-induced climate change, extreme weather and climate events produce the most pronounced impacts. In this paper, the climate of three island countries in the Western Pacific: Fiji, Samoa and Tuvalu, has been analysed. Warming trends in annual average maximum and minimum temperatures since the 1950s have been identified, in line with the global warming trend. We present recent examples of extreme weather and climate events and their impacts on the island countries in the Western Pacific: the 2011 drought in Tuvalu, the 2012 floods in Fiji and a tropical cyclone, Evan, which devastated Samoa and Fiji in December 2012. We also relate occurrences of the extreme weather and climate events to phases of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon. The impacts of such natural disasters on the countries are severe and the costs of damage are astronomical. In some cases, climate extremes affect countries to such an extent that governments declare a national state of emergency, as occurred in Tuvalu in 2011 due to the severe drought’s impact on water resources. The projected increase in the frequency of weather and climate extremes is one of the expected consequences of the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentration and will likely have even stronger negative impacts on the natural environment and society in the future. This should be taken into consideration by authorities of Pacific Island Countries and aid donors when developing strategies to adapt to the increasing risk of climate extremes. Here we demonstrate that the modern science of seasonal climate prediction is well developed, with current dynamical climate models being able to provide skilful predictions of regional rainfall two-three months in advance. The dynamic climate model-based forecast products are now disseminated to the National Meteorological Services of 15 island countries in the Western Pacific through a range of web-based information tools. We conclude with confidence that seasonal climate prediction is an effective solution at the regional level to provide governments and local communities of island nations in the Western Pacific with valuable assistance for informed decision making for adaptation to climate variability and change.


Cite this paper
Kuleshov, Y. , McGree, S. , Jones, D. , Charles, A. , Cottrill, A. , Prakash, B. , Atalifo, T. , Nihmei, S. , Seuseu, F. , (2014) Extreme Weather and Climate Events and Their Impacts on Island Countries in the Western Pacific: Cyclones, Floods and Droughts. Atmospheric and Climate Sciences, 4, 803-818. doi: 10.4236/acs.2014.45071.
References
[1]   IPCC (2007) Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K.B., Tignor, M. and Miller, H.L., Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA.

[2]   IPCC (2013) Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Stocker, T.F., Qin, D., Plattner, G.-K., Tignor, M., Allen, S.K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V. and Midgley, P.M., Eds., Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, USA, 1535 p.

[3]   Chan, J.C.L. (2000) Tropical Cyclone Activity over the Western North Pacific Associated with El Niño and La Niña Events. Journal of Climate, 13, 2960-2972.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(2000)013<2960:TCAOTW>2.0.CO;2

[4]   Kuleshov, Y., Qi, L., Fawcett, R. and Jones, D. (2008) On Tropical Cyclone Activity in the Southern Hemisphere: Trends and the ENSO Connection. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, Article ID: L14S08.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2007GL032983

[5]   Risbey, J.S., Pook, M.J., McIntosh, P.C., Wheeler, M.C. and Hendon, H.H. (2009) On the Remote Drivers of Rainfall Variability in Australia. Monthly Weather Review, 137, 3233-3253.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/2009MWR2861.1

[6]   Australian Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO (2011) Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research. Volume 1: Regional Review, 257 p. Volume 2: Country Reports, 273 p.

[7]   Fiji Bureau of Statistics (2013) 2007 Census of Population and Housing.
http://www.statsfiji.gov.fj/index.php/2007-census-of-population

[8]   Atalifo, T., Prakash, B., Waqaicelua, A., Kunitsugu, M., Caroff, P., Chane-Ming, F., et al. (2013) Tropical Cyclone Data and Portal for the Western Pacific. Proceedings of the 19th National Conference of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS), Melbourne, 11-13 February 2013, 351.

[9]   Kuleshov, Y. (2012) Southern Hemisphere Tropical Cyclone Climatology. In: Wang, S.-Y. and Gillies, R.R., Eds., Modern Climatology, Chapter 1, Intech, Vienna, 1-44.

[10]   Whan, K., Alexander, L.V., Imielska, A., McGree, S., Jones, D., Ene, E., Finaulahi, S., Inape, K., Jacklick, L., Kumar, R., Laurent, V., Malala, H., Malsale, P., Pulehetoa-Mitiepo, R., Ngemaes, M., Peltier, A., Porteous, A., Seuseu, S., Skilling, E., Tahani, L., Toorua, U. and Vaiimene, M. (2013) Trends and Variability of Temperature Extremes in the Tropical Western Pacific. International Journal of Climatology, 34, 2585-2603.

[11]   Jones, D.A., Collins, D.A., McGree, S., Trewin, B., Skilling, E., Diamond, H., et al. (2013) An Updated Analysis of Homogeneous Temperature Data at Pacific Island Stations. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal, 63, 285-302.

[12]   Kuleshov, Y., Spillman, C., Wang, Y., Charles, A., de Wit, R., Shelton, K., et al. (2012) Seasonal Prediction of Climate Extremes for the Pacific: Tropical Cyclones and Extreme Ocean Temperatures. Journal of Marine Science and Technology, 20, 675-683.

[13]   Imielska, A., Whan, K., McGree, S., Jones, D. and Alexander, L. (2013) Trends in Rainfall and Temperature Extremes in the Pacific. Proceedings of the 19th National Conference of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (AMOS), Melbourne, 11-13 February 2013, 137.

[14]   McGree, S., Whan, K., Jones, D., Alexander, L.V., Imielska, A., Diamond, H., et al. (2013) An Updated Assessment of Trends and Variability in Total and Extreme Rainfall in the Western Pacific. International Journal of Climatology, 34, 2775-2791. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/joc.3874

[15]   Business Insurance (2013) Fiji: Cyclone Evan Damage Estimated at $108 Million, April 24, 2013.
http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20130424/NEWS09/130429928#

[16]   Government of Fiji (2012) Cabinet Memorandum: Consolidated 2012 Flood Damage Assessment and Rehabilitation Requirements (for Discussion), April 2012.

[17]   Information Bulletin-Tuvalu Drought (2011) International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Organizations, 14 October 2011.

[18]   d’Aubert, A. and Nunn, P.D. (2012) Furious Winds and Parched Islands: Tropical Cyclones (1558-1970) and Droughts (1722-1987) in the Pacific. XLibris, Bloomington, 358 p.

[19]   Charles, A., Kuleshov, Y. and Jones, D. (2012) Chapter 23: Managing Climate Risk with Seasonal Forecasts. In: Banaitiene, N., Ed., Risk Management—Current Issues and Challenges, InTech, Vienna, 557-584.

[20]   Charles, A., Kuleshov, Y., Jones, D., Hendon, H., Shelton, K., de Wit, R., et al. (2013) Seasonal Prediction of Climate Extremes in the Pacific: New Products and Services from Dynamical Models. Proceedings of the 20th International Congress on Modelling and Simulation (MODSIM 2013), Adelaide, 1-6 December 2013, 2841-2847.

[21]   Cottrill, A., Hendon, H., Lim, E.-P., Langford, S., Shelton, K., Charles, A., et al. (2013) Seasonal Forecasting in the Pacific Using the Coupled Model POAMA-2. Weather and Forecasting, 28, 668-680.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/WAF-D-12-00072.1

[22]   Cottrill, A. and Kuleshov, Y. (2014) An Assessment of Rainfall Seasonal Forecasting Skill from the Statistical Model SCOPIC Using Four Predictors. Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Journal, in Press.

[23]   Kuleshov, Y., Jones, D., Hendon, H., Charles, A., Cottrill, A., Lim, E.-P., et al. (2012) Pacific Adaptation Strategy Assistance Program: Strengthening the Capacity for Seasonal Prediction Services in Pacific Countries. Bulletin of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, 25, 7-12.

[24]   Zhang, Q., Zhang, W., Lu, X. and Chen, Y.D. (2012) Landfalling Tropical Cyclones Activities in the South China: Intensifying or Weakening? International Journal of Climatology, 32, 1815-1824.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/joc.2396

[25]   Zhang, Q., Zhang, W., Chen, Y.D. and Jiang, T. (2011) Flood, Drought and Typhoon Disasters during the Last Half Century in the Guangdong Province, China. Natural Hazards, 57, 267-278.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11069-010-9611-9

[26]   Knutson, T.R., McBride, J.L., Chan, J., Emanuel, K., Holland, G., Landsea, C., et al. (2010) Tropical Cyclones and Climate Change. Nature Geoscience, 3, 157-163. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo779

 
 
Top