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Pacific Islands climate forum issues seasonal outlook

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The Fifth Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF-5) recently issued the Regional Statement on the Climate of 2018/19 and Climate, Ocean and Tropical Cyclone Outlook for October to December 2019.

It predicts that ENSO neutral conditions will persist and near normal tropical cyclone activity is expected for most islands. There is an indication that rainfall may be below normal in the Coral Sea region. Some areas east of the International Dateline may experience above normal rainfall. The highest coral bleaching threat is forecast to extend from Nauru to the Phoenix Group in Kiribati. In parts of the tropical Northwest Pacific and Southwest Pacific (north of Fiji), sea levels are forecast to remain above normal during the next three to six months; subsiding to near normal elsewhere.

The month of November marks the onset of the dry season for the north Pacific and wet season for the south Pacific Region. November to April is the Tropical Cyclone season in the south Pacific and National Meteorological Services (NMSs) in the region are challenged with the issuance of an accurate tropical cyclone outlooks.

For this reason, since October 2015, NMSs jointly with Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), World Meteorological Organization, other international and regional organisations, technical partners and stakeholders regularly convene at the Pacific Island Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF) just prior to the TC season to discuss a consensus-based regional, seasonal outlook with a particular focus on the tropical cyclone season through dialogue and science support evidence.

The PICOF-5 was held on 17-18 October, at the Institut de Recherche pour le Development (IRD) in Noumea, New Caledonia, hosted by Meteo France, preceded by a training session. The Pacific Regional Climate Centre Network (in demonstration phase) provided technical guidance and support in developing the seasonal outlook. The PICOF-5 had a specific focus on agriculture sector with objectives to and improve the collaboration between the meteorology-agriculture sectors, to develop tailored seasonal forecast products and to help agriculture sector interpreting and applying this information in decision making process.

According to Mr Terry Atalifo - Principal Climate Officer at the Fiji Met Service, “Agriculture sector significantly contributes to the economies of Small Islands Developing States in the Pacific. However, this sector struggles to strive in with climate variability and change. This forum allows the Meteorological Service and the agriculture sector to learn from each other, to better understand opportunities and needs in order to provide improved services to meet their needs”

Along with the seasonal forecasts and application of climate information to the agriculture sector, participants also explored new approaches to be introduced in PICOF, including objective seasonal forecasting, and other good practices for improving climate services. The Regional Statement will also guide the NMSs in the region in developing their specific outlooks through National Climate Outlook Forums (NCOFs) being conducted in a number of countries shortly after the PICOF session.

PICOF-5 was attended by the NMHSs experts from fifteen and agriculture sector representatives from six Pacific countries, as well as technical experts and resource persons from Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Pacific Community (SPC), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) Climate Center (APCC), Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Further information here.