Papua New Guinea has held its first successful National Climate Outlook Forum under a WMO-spearheaded initiative to strengthen and increase the provision of seasonal outlooks at both regional and national level. The programme, financed by Environment Canada, aims to ensure that weather and climate information are integrated into decision making for sectors such as agriculture, water management, health and disaster risk reduction.
The Forum, which was hosted by Papua New Guinea’s Weather Service, brought together government and United Nations agencies, Non-Governmental Organizations, the private sector, and research and education institutions. It provided a timely platform to discuss weather and climate related risks and benefits for sustainable development, public safety and protection of property.
In early March, the South Pacific island nation experienced heavy rainfall and strong winds, severe floods and landslides. These killed one person and caused considerable disruption to aviation and shipping operations, damaged roads, bridges and houses and farms. The relief operations cost more than 10 million Papua New Guinean Kina (about US$ 3.75 million) Papua New Guinea local currency) and the estimate cost of damages to commercial farming and infrastructure and loss of livelihood is well above 100 million Kina (US$ 37.5 million).
The wet season will soon end in April. The seasonal climate outlook for April to June said there is a renewed (40-50%) chance of an El Niño event occurring in 2015. Since mid-March, the sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the region around Papua New Guinea have been 0.5°C warmer than normal which is just at the threshold of an El Niño event. For an El Niño to develop in the coming period, this warming trend needs to continue for some time. However, model predictions at this time of the year lack skill because of the so-called “Spring Predictability Barrier.”
For Papua New Guinea, El Niño is often associated with below-normal rainfall over southern and eastern coastal areas, West Sepik and parts of the Highlands. New Guinea Islands tend to have a mixed relation with the exception of the West New Britain which experiences wetter conditions during El Niño, according to the seasonal climate outlook.
WMO is promoting Regional and National Climate Outlook Forums around the world under the Global Framework for Climate Services in order to build the capacity of National Meteorological Services to provide tailored, user-friendly climate services in support of sustainable development. The forum for Papua New Guinea, which was supported by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), extended the system to the Pacific region following its successful introduction in the Caribbean.
Encouraged by the proven benefits of regional climate outlook forums in the Caribbean, the Pacific Islands will hold a Regional Climate Outlook Forum in Fiji in October 2015. One of the aims of the Canadian-funded programme is to build South-South cooperation and knowledge sharing between Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean and Pacific.
In nurturing National Climate Outlook Forum, WMO is aiming to promote best practices in the preparation, delivery, provision and evaluation of climate information, and to strengthen the interaction between regional institutions, NMHSs and end users of climate information.
The objectives of National Climate Outlook Forum include:
- To create a platform for providing climate information at relevant timescales through a regular and sustained multi-stakeholder dialogue process with users at different levels.
- Ensure that climate information products, including their uncertainties and limitations, are communicated to and understood by users, and to explore the needs of the user communities.
- Encourage the use of the information to mitigate risks in climate-sensitive sectors, including disaster management, infrastructure, health, energy and water resources, agriculture and tourism.
- Receive user feedback for improving usability of climate products to ensure that they are accessible, user-friendly and applicable.
- Provide a platform for understanding risks and opportunities linked to past, current and future climate.
- Create a platform for inter-agency coordination of policies, sectoral plans and programs linked to potential impacts of hydro-meteorological hazards.
- Create a culture of working together through joint climate information interpretation sessions for managing risks in various climate-sensitive sectors, like agriculture, water, transport, disaster risk reduction and health.
The participants at the Papua New Guinea Forum included the National Weather Service; National Disasters Management Office; Power Corporation, Water Authority; Coffee Industry Corporate Ltd; National Agriculture Research Institute; Office of the Climate Change Development; University of Papua New Guinea; UNOCHA; WHO; Red Cross; and World Vision.
The participants agreed for such a forum to be organized regularly every six to 12 months. It will provide proactive advisories and statements to alert users of climate information, about evolving or foreseen climate extremes at the regional and national levels, thus allowing them to make informed decisions. This information includes observations on current conditions and weekly, 10-day, monthly, seasonal and annual monitoring and forecasting products.