Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 17 Jul 2019 12am







    Tuesday, July 16, 2019-2:09:50P.M.






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Western Pacific in El Niño watch

MAJURO — The Western Pacific region may be facing the resurgence of the El Niño weather condition later this year.

“We are in an El Nino watch,” said Guam-based weather official Charles “Chip” Guard this week. “There is about a 70 percent chance that we will go into an El Niño this fall or winter.”

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This file photo from March this year shows flooding next to the capital building in Majuro that has been generated multiple times in 2018.  Photo by Giff Johnson

But, Guard added, “we do not expect it to be a strong El Niño.” Still, even a weak or moderate event will cause more storm activity in the Marshall Islands, he said. In addition to increased storm activity, El Niño conditions usually cause droughts in the Marshall Islands, which depends almost entirely on rainfall for their fresh water.

Demonstrating that 2018 has seen the weather “pendulum” swing away from El Niño and the droughts of 2016 and 2017, six of the first seven months generated rainfall levels higher than the monthly average. The March to May period saw over 62 inches of rain — over double the 27-inch three month average — in what is usually the dry season in the Marshall Islands.

During most of July and early August, the Marshall Islands has experienced nearly a month of westerly trades — an unusual weather pattern in islands that normally see westerly winds only a few times a year and limited to a few days duration.

These weather conditions appear to be pushing the weather pendulum back toward El Niño.

If a moderate El Niño does swing into gear in the coming months, the Marshall Islands can expect increased storm activity in October and November for the southern islands and September and October for the northern islands, said Guard.

“A strong typhoon is not likely under this scenario, but even weak ones can do significant damage in the Marshall Islands,” said Guard.

The western Pacific experienced a relatively strong El Niño in 2016, with President Barack Obama responding to a declaration of a drought emergency by the Marshall Islands government by issuing a “disaster declaration” in late April 2016 that paved the way for US federal funding of emergency drought aid.

Meantime, Guard said Guam weather officials, together with their colleagues at the Majuro Weather Service, are monitoring developments.