Are the hot days behind us? El Niño

By Vatapuia Maiava ,

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FLOODING IN 2015: Flooding in Samoa at the end of 2015.

FLOODING IN 2015: Flooding in Samoa at the end of 2015. (Photo: Titi Tutuvanu Schwalger.)

The most severe El Niño ever recorded since 1997-1998 has finally reached its peak and could be finally dying down in the next few months. 

The people of Samoa have been experiencing some really hot days during the holiday season, which has also affected the country greatly. 

Last week, the Australian meteorology office said that the El Niño peaked at the end of December and will begin to slowly dwindle in the upcoming months. 

Tile Jr. Tofaeono, Principal Officer at the Samoa Meteorology Division’s Climate Change Section said the same applies to Samoa.

“The readings done by the Australian Met office does apply to Samoa because we share the same reading when it comes to the El Niño,” he said.

“Climate models suggest the 2015/2016 El Niño will decline during the coming months, with a return to ENSO (El Niño southern oscillation) neutral likely during April to June period.”

Tile said they would continue to monitor El Niño characteristics with the assistance of overseas meteorology offices using various climate models.

According to the Samoa Meteorology climate models, the rainfall between the months of October – December 2015 has been an alarming average to below average due to the El Nino.

El Niño is a series of complex climate disturbances over a certain period of time affecting the equatorial Pacific region including other areas nearby. 

The event is evident through the sudden appearance of unusually warm air, below average rainfall and more frequent major storms such as cyclones and hurricanes. These characteristics make this issue important especially in Samoa which is almost always torn by cyclones during the months of November – April annually. 

Samoa Meteorology Division (SMD) commented that past El Niño events has been the main cause of forest fires at Asau, located in the north western of Savai’i Island during the dry seasons of 1982-83, 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2002-03. 

These dry drought-like seasons are occasionally accompanied by tropical cyclones bringing us from one extreme to the other. 

According to the report comprised of weather readings through a series of climate models released by the S.M.D; over the El Niño period Samoa has experienced a series of unusual weather patterns such as: 

• below average rainfall which could easily turn into a drought and forest fires, 

• higher than normal day time temperatures over the country,

• a decrease in sea levels and increased possibility of coral bleaching in the marine environment. 

This has been a serious issue over the past few months affecting water, agriculture, health, energy from the hydropower, tourism accommodation facilities and forestry. 

The El Niño 2015 – 2016 has been branded the strongest event ever due to the atmosphere and ocean being strongly and fully coupled. 

This climate event was first noticed in the months of July with a sustained negative Southern Oscillation index of -17.7.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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