Weather forecasters, hydrographers, oceanographers, fisheries officers and maritime safety experts from around the Pacific region have gathered in Nadi, Fiji, today to take part in training to boost understanding, monitoring and forecasting of oceans and tides.
First Secretary of the Australian High Commission in Suva, Raymond Bojczuk opened the training, which is jointly organised by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Australian Bureau of Meteorology under the Climate and Oceans Support Programme in the Pacific (COSPPac).
“The timing is right to boost regional capacity to monitor and forecast ocean conditions,” Mr Bojczuk noted, recognising the severe wave damage many coastal communities in Fiji experienced during Tropical Cyclone Winston and the numerous inundation events that have threatened low-lying atolls across the region in recent years.
According to meteorologists and oceanographers present at the workshop, strong El Niño conditions contributed to many of the ocean and climate extremes experienced in the Pacific in 2015 and early 2016.
An El Niño occurs when ocean temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean become warmer than average, and this causes changes in the prevailing trade winds.
El Niño conditions typically last for about a year and are associated with noticeable changes in rainfall, sea level, and the frequency and severity of tropical cyclones.
“For a region that is 98 percent ocean, we have surprisingly little ocean data,” said Mr Bojczuk. “I can proudly say, however, that Australia has supported one of the most long-standing, high quality ocean monitoring systems in the region- the Pacific Sea Level Monitoring Project.”
A key component of COSPPac, the Pacific Sea Level Monitoring Project, is a network of 14 tide gauges across the region, providing continuous data on temperature, tides, and weather for more than 20 years.
The real-time data from this project is openly accessible online on the newly developed COSPPac Ocean Portal.
“The Ocean Portal also serves up near real-time Pacific Ocean data such as sea surface temperature, wave forecasts, surface current forecasts, coral bleaching alerts, and seasonal sea level variations as user-friendly maps and graphics,” SPC’s Manager of Oceans and Coastal Geoscience, Jens Kruger, said.
This information can be very useful to any public or private sector organisation that interacts with the ocean, including shipping, fisheries, tourism, disaster management, conservation, and coastal infrastructure development.
“Now that this information is available, it is our duty to ensure the right people know how to access and apply it to improve our preparation and resilience in the face of extreme events,” Mr Kruger said.
Tide guage, Tuvalu, by Lily Frencham
About the Pacific Community and the Government of Australia:
The Pacific Community (SPC) is the principal scientific and technical organisation in the Pacific region, proudly supporting development since 1947. Australia is both a founding member and important development partner.
The Government of Australia and SPC bring together their respective intellectual and technical resources to support Pacific Island countries and territories to realise their development aspirations. The Climate and Ocean Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac) project is one example.
Since it launched in 2012, COSPPac has worked to build the capacity of Pacific Island Meteorological Services and other relevant agencies to understand and apply climate, ocean and sea level information for the benefit of island governments and communities.