SPREP, APIA, SAMOA: Samoa is among several South-West Pacific island countries that may experience higher than normal rainfall as La Niña is officially underway in the Pacific as confirmed by the Pacific Meteorological Desk Partnership at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
La Niña is a Spanish term which means “the girl”, and is the name given to the phenomenon where the trade winds become stronger, enhancing the warm pool in the western Pacific and causing the sea surface temperatures in the Central and eastern Pacific become cooler.
The other countries South-West Pacific countries include Fiji, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Southern Cook Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
As a result of La Nina, Pacific islands in the central Pacific region such as Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu may experience below normal rainfall during this period.
La Niña is part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is a major climate driver that influences normal rainfall, temperature, and sea level patterns across the Pacific. ENSO is a slow onset event, whereby the impacts are not felt immediately by Pacific islands but gradually over time, unlike events such as tropical cyclones, whereby the impacts are felt as soon as the events occur.
“These phenomenon may sound scientific, but the fact is that these terms and what they are will have direct impact on our lives in the Pacific, they will affect our food crops, our hygiene in the time of COVID-19, and our safety with the impacts of tropical cyclone season and floods or landslides in some parts of the region and potential drought in others,” said Ms Tagaloa Cooper, Director of Climate Change Resilience.
“We must all make an effort to know what is happening with our weather and climate and prepare ourselves for what may come, the more we can prepare, the more resilient we will be.”
The impacts of La Niña will vary from country to country, with those in the Central and Eastern Pacific may be more susceptible to droughts, while countries in the South-West Pacific will become more prone to flooding and landslides, and tropical cyclones are more likely to form further west during this time. This is due to the South Pacific Convergence Zone, a band of intense rainfall which extends across the Pacific from the equator, being pushed South-West during La Niña.