RAINFALL will be far less than normal this year as the effects of El Nino set in, the National Weather Service Office has predicted.
Such conditions can lead to serious drought, the office said.
“El Niño events are not due to climate change. They are natural climate variability events, which tend to occur every three to seven years,” it said.
The 1997-98 El Niño was declared by climate scientists as the “El Niño of the century” but the current one could supersede that due to the nature and the timing of its development, the office said.
“El Niño events are global climate events with different degrees of impacts across the country. For Papua New Guinea, the most affected provinces are Central, Western and parts of the Highlands and Mamose.
“Kiunga and Balimo in Western are two of the towns that are adversely affected.”
Climate and Special Services assistant director Kasis Inape said: “According to the chart, Figure 1 shows the rainfall distribution for Kiunga during the three different periods.
“The blue curve represents the average rainfall during the year while the red and green curves show the rainfall patterns during the 1997-98 and the 2015 El Niño years respectively.
“It is easy to note from the figure that rainfall is seriously reduced during the El Niño years.”
Inape said the Fly River was the operational lifeline of Ok Tedi. “During the El Niño phenomena, the rainfall is seriously reduced making the water levels drop sharply, making it very difficult for the transportation of iron ore and other minerals for export to be barged down the Fly River.
“From Figure 1, the June rainfall for Kiunga is already 50 per cent less than the average and the forecast is that this dryness will continue for the next four-six months, even longer.
“This is consistent with the current understanding that once an El Niño is declared, it will last for more than 10 or more months before it finally dissipates.
“Table 1 shows the progression of drought in Kiunga during the 1997-98 El Niño event. Drought warning was issued in January 1997 and the drought actually started in April 1997 and reached its peak in September before dissipating in May 1998.
“We are expecting this scenario for this year’s El Niño.”
Inape said: “We are now in a much better position than when we were in 1997-98 as far as our understanding of El Niño is concerned so we are providing forecast with some level of confidence and certainty.
“El Niño events are slow-moving phenomena and therefore, gives us ample time to prepare for the adverse effects associated with them such as drought and frost.”