Links Between El Niño and Typhoons in Asia and the Pacific
The main effects of El Niño have already been significantly felt in the region with regard to the frequency and severity of typhoons as well as in very appreciable changes in rainfall pattern. In some areas record rainfalls have been experienced whereas other areas are facing unusual droughts.
ESCAP, since its inception over five decades ago, has been assisting its Members on their efforts in natural disaster reduction. ESCAP had also been very active in the activities that lead to the designation of the 1990s as the IDNDR as well as in the Decade related activities in Asia and the Pacific, during the last seven years. ESCAP is the only UN agency that is tackling the natural disaster reduction issue at the regional level covering Asia and the Pacific. ESCAP also works in close cooperation with other UN agencies, i.e. WMO and IDNDR Secretariat and with regional institutions, for example, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Centre.
Thirtieth Session of Typhoon Committee, Hong Kong, 25 November - 1 December 1997- Extracts Related to El Niño
79. The Committee had a lengthy discussion on the possible link between El Niño and the extraordinary pattern and characteristics of typhoons in 1997. Features so far included: two exceptionally early typhoons striking Japan in June, very late start of typhoon season in China, much below normal typhoon activities in the Philippines and the South China Sea and the rare event of a tropical cyclone hitting southern VietNam and southern Thailand in early November 1997. The low typhoon frequency in the Philippines led to drought conditions which were also observed in neighbouring countries. Many of these features had also taken place during the previous El Niño event in 1982-83, which pointed towards a strong likelihood that the abnormal pattern of typhoon occurrence in 1997 was related to major shifts in the regional circulation associated with the ongoing El Niño event.
80. The Committee noted with interest the actions taken by the National Meteorological Service in the Philippines to alert the government to the occurrence of El Niño and its associated impacts and commended the Philippines government for taking effective responsive actions to reduce damage and save lives.
81. Noting the considerable impact of the extraordinary typhoon season on the population in the region, the Committee urged Members to strengthen the routine monitoring of the state of the atmosphere, in particular upper-air ascents in the tropical region, so as to allow early detection of El Niño and associated circulation patterns and continuous monitoring of their evolution once El Niño has started.
The Committee also attached great value to observations of rainfall and other hydrological parameters and encouraged hydrological services in the region to contribute towards the detection and monitoring of El Niño condition.
82. The Committee urged National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in the region to establish and strengthen their capability to advise their governments on national and regional climate impacts associated with El Niño and other phenomena of similar time and spatial scales including strong winds and rough seas. The Committee further encouraged Members to exchange speedily among themselves making use of telecommunication facilities like telephone, fax and e-mail, relevant meteorological and hydrological information once the occurrence of El Niño was detected or suspected. The Committee requested its network of focal points and correspondents to step up their liaison work in this connection. The highlight of the information mist be sent to Members by fax at the first instance or as soon as possible.
83. Also in this connection, the Committee requested Members to step up their efforts in studying short-term climatic fluctuations associated with El Niño and in enhancing their capability and coordination in respect of the forecasts and warning of related disastrous weather conditions. On research, Members were encouraged to conduct statistical studies to evaluate the impact of El Niño in both meteorological and human-related terms, such as the changed regional typhoon pattern over a time scale of several months. Furthermore, the Committee felt that from the disaster prevention and preparedness point of view, much could be learnt from case studies of past El Niño events, particularly with regard to the response of governments and the community. Members were encouraged to locate such past studies if available, and make use of them.
84. The Committee considered it very important that NMHSs should make use of the best available data to establish a scientific assessment of the impact of El Niño, especially the disruption in the pattern of typhoon occurrence on their weather. The Committee emphasized that this assessment should be communicated to the public in clear layman terms.
85. The Committee pointed out that El Niño presented a new and challenging problem to NMHSs in the region and that the fulfilment of the new service requirements would require considerable input of resource. The Committee therefore called upon governments in the region to provide sufficient financial and organizational support to meteorological, hydrological and disaster management services and others concerned, so as to ensure that an adequate level of monitoring and research activity is maintained. International funding agencies were also invited to give positive consideration to requests for support from Members to strengthen their preparedness capability in this subject area.
Participation at the 30th Typhoon Committee session:
The session was attended by 48 participants, representing twelve (out of thirteen) members of the Typhoon Committee, namely Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Lao PDR, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam.
The session was also attended by five observers from Brunie Daussalam and the United States of America. In addition, four observers from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), International Decade for Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) Secretariat,/Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA), WMO Commission for Atmospheric Sciences (CAS) and seven observers from the WMO, ESCAP and the Typhoon committee Secretariat (TCS) also attended the session.
For more information, please contact:
Guangchang Shi, Director
Environment and Natural Resources Management Division, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
United Nations Building, Rajdamnern Avenue
Bangkok 10200, Thailand
Tel: 662 2881234; Fax: 662 2881000