By the Pacific Meteorological Council -Pacific Islands Climate Services (PICS) Panel
Variation in climate has the potential to significantly affect agriculture production and food security in the Pacific region. El Niño and La Niña events can lead to increased risk of drought, floods and heightened tropical cyclone risk, compromising commercial and subsistence food production, impacting gross domestic product and leading to impacts on human health.
Forging stronger relationships between National Meteorological Services (NMSs) and agriculture sector in Pacific countries was a key focus of the fifth Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum (PICOF-5) which concluded last week in Noumea, New Caledonia.
“Improving use of seasonal climate information in decision making by farmers can reduce losses by increasing preparedness for disasters” said Mr Sunny Seuseu, Acting Manager, Van CISRDP of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
“This requires not only that farmers can access outlooks provided by their meteorological service, but also that they understand what the outlooks are telling them and what early actions they can take to prepare”.
In most Pacific countries, increasing the regular exchange of information between NMSs and agriculture services is a priority.
Development of agrometeorology bulletins and early warning systems, basic climate training packages for use with farmers, video and social media updates, integration of traditional knowledge with scientific information and regular national climate outlook forums were among the priorities identified by participants.
In Vanuatu, climate field schools have been an effective mechanism of demonstrating how climate information can be applied by farmers.
“Key farmers learn different ways of planting in preparation for the coming season. Other farmers in the communities can then see for themselves how these techniques reduce losses due to less rainfall than normal, or more rainfall than normal” said Mr. Pakoa Leo, Van-KIRIP Agriculture Sector Coordinator.
The PICOF-5 brought together NMSs, agriculture sector representatives and regional and global technical partners to jointly discuss and develop the seasonal outlook for climate and tropical cyclones for the upcoming season. PICOFs are organised on an annual basis by the SPREP, the World Meteorological Organisation and the Pacific Islands Climate Services Panel.
“There are twenty Regional Climate Outlook Forums worldwide, and WMO has been continuously guiding and supporting their growth and expansion” said Ms. Anahit Hovsepyan, WMO. “Each RCOF evolved in different way being tailored to its region’s needs and capabilities, but all serve as a reliable source of high quality climate information, and provide a crucial opportunity to strengthen regional partnerships, interaction between providers and users of climate information for improved production and dissemination of seasonal climate prediction and its application by users across various priority sectors”.
PICOF-5 was the last PICOF to be overseen by Dr. Andrew Tait, NIWA, outgoing Chair of the PICS Panel. The establishment of PICOFs and of the WMO Regional Association V Regional Climate Centre Pacific has been made possible under Dr. Tait’s leadership.“SPREP and partners are very dedicated to helping the PICS Panel access funding to hold PICOFs annually” he said.
The PICS Panel is now co-chaired by Mr. Simon McGree, Australian Bureau of Meteorology and Dr. Olivia Warrick, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with vice-chair Mr. Allan Rarai, Vanuatu Meteorological and Geohazards Division.
A regional statement, released approximately one week following the conclusion of the PICOF-5, will summarise outlooks for rainfall, ocean and air temperature, sea level, coral bleaching and tropical cyclones across the Pacific for the next three to six months.
PICOF-5 was held at the Institut de Recherche pour le Development (IRD), Noumea, New Caledonia from 17-18 October 2019. The Forum was hosted by Meteo-France(New Caledonia) and was attended by members from Australia, Cook Islands, Federated State of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Tuvalu, United States of America, and Vanuatu. Funding was provided by Republic of Korea-Pacific Island Climate Prediction Services Phase 2 (implemented by SPREP and POSTECH), the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Further support for the Forum is provided by the COSPPac project, Van-KIRAP project and members of the PICS Panel.