TC Harold Real-time Ocean Data Informs Preparedness and Response
When severe Tropical Cyclone Harold swept through four Pacific Island countries in early April, tide gauges and a wave buoys across the region recorded the event in real-time, providing critical information in support of disaster response and recovery.
“At the Regional Specialised Meteorological Centre (RSMC)- Nadi, we have the expertise and tools to predict, track and provide alerts and warnings on tropical cyclone behaviour and the resulting atmospheric effects, “ reports Mr. Misaeli Funaki, Director of Fiji Meteorological Service. “But even with all these technological advancements, ocean observations and forecast products are very limited in our region. In recent years, intense tropical cyclones such as Winston and Harold have caused major damage to our coastal communities and islands due to storm surges.”
“Global models and satellites provide great insights on what is happening offshore, but not what happens at the coastline, where the majority of Pacific islanders live,” says SPC Oceanographer, Herve Damlamian. “The tide gauges and wave buoys provide valuable data on local impacts and help improve weather and storm surge models.”
The sea level and tsunami monitoring stations in Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and Tonga are part of an Australian-funded network established in the early 1990s to monitor sea level and climate across 13 Pacific Island countries. The network is currently supported by the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific (COSPPac) through the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia and the Pacific Community (SPC).
The wave buoy located off the Fiji’s Coral Coast was deployed by Fiji Met Service and SPC under the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) Coastal Inundation Forecasting Demonstration Project (CIFDP) in 2019. It contributes to a growing network of near-shore ocean observations available to enhance impact forecasting in the Pacific region.
“Until very recently, the number of wave buoys across all the Pacific Islands represented only 1% of the world’s buoys,” notes SPC’s Acting Deputy Director Oceans and Maritime Programme, Mr Jens Kruger. “With recent investments and new buoys in Fiji and Tuvalu, that has grown to 2%. Still we have a long way to go given the size of our ocean and number of communities threatened by coastal inundation.”
Using these data, SPC’s Oceanography team is currently finalising a tailored model that simulates the wind, wave, and water levels produced by TC Harold across the region. This high-resolution model will provide detailed insights on the range of hazard intensity (e.g. wave height and storm surge) experienced along the coastlines of affected countries.
“Once we understand the hazard, we can look at the impact and start connecting the dots between hazard and impact which is one of the huge gaps we have in terms of risk knowledge in the region,” notes Damlamian.
“Ultimately, we would like to be in a position where officials are able to provide the public with actionable and impact-based information ahead of extreme events,” says Kruger
For more information:
To access the real-time data from the sea level and tsunami monitoring stations, visit: http://oceanportal.spc.int click the + on the Sea Level icon, and follow the links to the real-time data display.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for updates on SPC’s TC Harold model coming soon!
Merana Kitione, Capacity Development and Communications Officer: meranak spc.int
Feature Photo: Wave buoy deployed off Komave, Fiji.