Micronesia drought conditions easing
A professor of meteorology says drought conditions in Micronesia are easing but normal levels of rainfall are unlikely to return until the end of the year.
A professor of meteorology at the University of Guam says drought conditions in Micronesia are easing but normal levels of rainfall are unlikely to return until the end of the year.
The region including parts of Melanesia remain in the grip of a dry spell driven by a stronger than normal El Niño weather pattern.
The professor, Mark Lander, told Ben Robinson El Niño has also caused a dramatic fall in the sea level around Guam.
MARK LANDER: The direct cause is the weakening of the trade winds that blow kind of at low latitude all across the entire Pacific normally the winds are from the east from South America all the way westward to our side and those easterly winds in a very common sense kind of way just push the water to the West so it piles up on our side. The normal sea level its natural state is about two feet higher here than it is say of the coast of South America but when El Niño comes along the trade winds weaken and you get westerly winds so the water slowly but surely drops in the West and rises in the east so that the whole set up of water can go in reverse. So with El Niño having a big change in trade winds at sea level has dramatically affected in-fact the difference between the very high standards of sea level when we are having La Niña versus the very low standards of sea level when we are having El Niño it is almost two feet and that is the same as our tidal range our low tide to high tide, here anyway, is two feet. And it becomes very noticeable at low tide lots of reef is very exposed and it is very dramatic you can look out and say wow look at the tide it has gone out and the reef is high and dry.
BEN ROBINSON: So where is it now?
ML: It has recovered about two or three inches from its very, very low point in December 2015 and January 2016 so I expect it is just going to keep coming up for the next few months.
BR: So with water effectively being pushed east across the Pacific has that taken with it the rain?
ML: Are yeah it does the same El Niño effect when those westerly winds hit and the storms the rainfall all go further east than they normally are but that's right now it is kind of at the last gasp the rains are out near the dateline and further eastward but as soon as the trade winds come back all the rain will come back towards the Western side to Indonesia back to the Philippines. The Philippines are having a horrible drought too. So our whole region in El Niño the rains kind of leave here and go east everything goes east.
BR:So it sounds like the drought will soon be over can you predict that?
ML: Yeah we are it is a normal dry season here anyway but what El Niño does or the post peak of El Niño it just makes it an extremely dry, dry season maybe half of normal rainfall or maybe even less. And it prolongs the dry season say from January to July instead of January to May. And everybody starts to crawl back on average they start getting more and more rain say even here on Guam, May and June normally we start getting rain. We just had April we only had an inch, one to two inches we should have had four. May we are supposed to have five we might get three. June we are supposed to get six we might get four and then by July we are supposed to get nine maybe we will get seven. And then it starts by July or August it inevitably crawls back to near normal anyway. But here on Guam it takes that long, some of the islands to our South, Palau, Pohnpei, Chuuk they come back a little earlier. They are already getting some rain, Palau finally they had nine inches of rain in April after having only three, four, five for many months. In fact Palau had its driest year in eighty years of record keeping. From April 2015 to March 2016 but they just came back they finally had a relatively wet month it was still below normal but they had nine, roughly nine inches of rain in April. So everybody is beginning to see a little bit more, slow recovery for every jurisdiction all across Micronesia we are all going to crawl back up closer and closer to normal and then after July or August we should be pretty much, we won't be excessively wet but we will come back to normal or slightly above by the end of the year.
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