Friday, October 14, 2016

Pacific nations warned to be vigilant for coming cyclone season

Islands in the Southwest Pacific are expected to suffer eight to 10 tropical cyclones -- five or six of them severe -- in the coming tropical cyclone season, New Zealand government meteorologists said Friday.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) said meteorological and climate analysis centers across the Southwest Pacific were indicating near average numbers of tropical cyclones for the season, which runs from November 2016 to April 2017.

Tropical cyclone activity was elevated for the Pacific island countries fringing the north of the Coral Sea, including Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands, and close to the International Date Line near Tonga and Niue, said a statement from NIWA.

The outlook for islands like New Caledonia, Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga indicated two or more cyclones could interact with each of those countries during the season despite subtle projected differences from normal.

Reduced risk was expected for Tuvalu.

At least five to six severe tropical cyclones were expected to occur anywhere across the Southwest Pacific during the season.

"All communities should remain vigilant and follow forecast information provided by their national meteorological service," said the statement.

Southwest Pacific tropical cyclones are categorized from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most dangerous.

At least six storms were anticipated to reach at least category 3, with mean wind speeds of at least 64 knots or 118 km per hour, known as "hurricane force" winds.

Of those systems, four storms might reach at least category 4 strength, with mean wind speeds of at least 86 knots or 159 km per hour.

Category 5 strength tropical cyclones, with winds greater than 106 knots or 196 km per hour, were known to occur, so all communities should remain alert and well prepared for severe events.

Tropical cyclones have a significant impact across the Southwest Pacific from year to year, with Vanuatu and New Caledonia typically seeing the greatest activity, with an average of two or three passing close to land each year.

Cyclone Winston killed at least 43 people when it struck Fiji in February.

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