PNG urged to learn from past El Ninos

By : The National

The country needs to learn from past El Nino events so that it can minimise the social, humanitarian and economic impacts, says Institute of National Affairs executive director Paul Barker.

“It is considered likely that if an El Nino does develop it will probably be of a relatively minor nature, compared to, say, the 1997-98 and the recent 2015-16 El Ninos,” he said, pointing out that the El Nino-induced drought of the past two years resulted in deaths and malnutrition in places like Western.

El Nino is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean which has a global impact on weather patterns. It occurs when sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean become substantially warmer than average, and this causes a shift in atmospheric circulation.

“It should be noted, however, that the intensity of any El Nino is not yet known, and that all El Ninos are somewhat different from each other. For example, the last one didn’t bring the major rains on the west coast of US, as many there hoped for and expected,” Barker said.

“In PNG we need to learn the lessons from past El Nino events, to better plan for future ones, and both minimise the social and humanitarian, as well as the economic impact.

“We shouldn’t assume that they’ll only happen once every seven years or more, and therefore have enough time to forget the experiences from before. They may recur more frequently, and at different intensities, but the likely major impact areas, watersheds, communities and industries, are likely to be again at greatest risk.

“The earlier and more specific the forecasts the better.”

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