Models predict more intense storms in South West Pacific

Cyclone Evan struck Samoa last year (2012).

Cyclone Evan struck Samoa last year (2012).

by Asenati Taugasolo Semu

APIA: WEDNESDAY 31 JULY 2013: The proportion of the most intense storms is projected to increase in the South West Pacific this century.

Countries in this part of the Pacific include Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Nauru, Niue, PNG, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

This was information from the Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science Adaptation Planning Program (PACCSAP) Regional Program Manager, Shin Furuno.

Furuno said it is the opposite in the northern Pacific basin where the proportion of weaker storms are projected to increase.

Countries in that part of the region are Federated States of Micronesia, Palau and Marshall Islands.

Furuno was a participant at the Joint Meeting 2013 of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, held in Nadi, Fiji this month.

PACCSAP engages with 15 Pacific countries and regional stakeholders to build their capacity to apply results discovered and build the climate science knowledge base.

It aims to help fill gaps by examining past climate trends and variability and providing regional and national climate projections.

It assists small islands in the Pacific which are facing serious and immediate challenges from climate change.

Furuno said the Pacific Climate Change Science Program, which preceded PACCSAP, projected that the proportion of the most intense storms will increase in the South West Pacific.

“However tropical cyclone frequency is likely to decrease in the South Pacific region over the 21st century,” he said.

He said there may be less cyclones overall, but more of them will be very intense.

Strip - Maota

“PACCSAP is working to update these projections to include the latest climate models results.”

Findings are scheduled to be released in September.

Furuno said with all the negative factors that climate change brings, everyone has a role to play to reduce the risk posed by climate change.

“Climate change can exacerbate other development issues such as population pressures, reduced food and water security, and erosion caused by land clearing, mangrove cutting and sand mining.

“Though national governments need to take coordinated action to reduce the risk posed by a changing climate, individuals and community groups also have an important role.”

Traditional knowledge such as gardening practices, protection of fish populations and mangroves can often reduce the risk of climate change impact to the population.

Furuno said PACCSAP aims to improve scientific understanding of climate change in the Pacific, increase awareness of climate science, impacts and adaptation options and help countries improve adaptation planning to build resilience to climate change impacts.

He also revealed some of the projects assisted by PACCSAP which include

capturing high resolution elevation data (LiDAR) of vulnerable coastlines in Samoa, Papua New Guinea and Tonga. LiDAR data improves the accuracy of inundation modelling and our ability to understand current and future risk to infrastructure and communities.

The project is also provides hardware, software and training to build capacity within the country governments to use, manage and store data. 

The potential costs of future cyclones in the Pacific is being assessed by integrating catastrophe-loss models developed by the Pacific Catastrophe and Risk Assessment and Financing Initiative (PCRAFI) with Geoscience Australia’s Tropical Cyclone Wind Risk Model.

Using the latest climate models, the project found that financial loss for the Pacific region from cyclones is projected to increase.

Country-specific information will soon be released.

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