Training Vanuatu Climatologists for the Tropical Cyclone Season

The 2022/2023 tropical cyclone season was exceptionally impactful in Vanuatu with two severe tropical cyclones, Judy and Kevin in late February early March 2023, making landfall. The entire population of the island was impacted over the four-day period. Thus, the Climate Risks and Early Warnings Systems (CREWS) Pacific Small-Island Developing States (SIDS) 2.0 Project has offered additional training to climatologists from the Vanuatu Meteorology and Geohazards Department (VMGD) whom are responsible for the preparation of the island’s annual tropical cyclone seasonal outlooks.

The training, facilitated by Professor Yuriy Kuleshov from Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BoM), included sessions on tropical cyclones data collection, climatology of tropical cyclones, tropical cyclones in El Niño and La Niña years, the Tropical Cyclone Data portal and establishing a statistical methodology for the development of a tropical cyclone seasonal outlook. The communication of tropical cyclone early warning was an integral part of the training – even a perfect tropical cyclone forecast has limited value if it is not communicated properly to those who need to take actions.  Scientific information must be translated into in general terms to ensure that tropical cyclone early warnings are clear and understood by the public. Impact-based forecasting with messaging about "what weather will do” not just "what weather will be" was emphasized.

The Vanuatu climatologists shared good practices in communicating easily understood tropical cyclone public warnings. For example, VMGD designs tropical cyclone track maps that provide information about winds, incorporating visuals with descriptions of the damages those winds could cause based on the Beaufort wind force scale.

Based on good practice from the BoM, it was recommended that the forecasters present key messages about expected tropical cyclone activity using simple statistical terminology. One example would be to say: "Tropical cyclone activity for the South Pacific is expected to be lower than average in the western region and higher than average in the eastern region." Other useful background information that would assist the public in understanding could also be added, such as the current state of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and its expected development over the coming months. In which case, the outlook should also include a simple description of typical ENSO impacts, such as "El Niño is likely to increase cyclone numbers in the eastern Pacific Ocean."

“I have learnt a lot of new things during the training,” said Mrs Glenda Pakoa, Principal Seasonal Climate Prediction Officer, VMGD. “Having gone through this training, everything is clear. I can visualize tropical cyclone data for Vanuatu for the past 50 years, download cyclone tracks, find the atmospheric pressure, locations and compare tropical cyclone occurrence in La Niña and El Niño years, and produce a tropical cyclone seasonal outlook for Vanuatu.”

Vanuatu communities should be able to fully the comprehend the Tropical Cyclone Seasonal Outlook for the 2023/2024 season that is currently in preparation at VMGD.

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