Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Storms set to intensify in Papua New Guinea

Eurasia Review via IRIN: Storms are set to intensify in Papua New Guinea (PNG), specialists warn, as the Pacific island nation grapples with the effects of climate change. The country is already highly prone to natural disasters - including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, cyclones, river and coastal flooding, landslides, and drought.

"As ocean surface temperatures rise, storms will increase in intensity. This is the driving factor," Bradley Opdyke, a scientist with the Department of Earth and Marine Sciences at the Australian National University, told IRIN from Canberra. "At these temperatures, like those found seasonally around the island of PNG, the likelihood of intense storms does increase."

At risk are low-lying coastal areas and many coral atolls, with nearly 500,000 people in 2,000 coastal villages vulnerable to weather extremes and inundation, a recent report by the World Bank and the South Pacific Applied Geo-science Commission stated.

"Combined with a sea-level rise, increasing storm intensity raises the risk of coastal storm surge, inundation, and storm damage generally," James Renwick, a Wellington-based scientist with the New Zealand National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research, said. "Moving infrastructure away from the coast is a sensible medium- to long-term strategy," he added.

But increased storm intensity is just part of the problem. "Weather conditions are more variable than in the past," Samuel Maiha, the director of the PNG Meteorological Department in Port Moresby confirmed. Traditionally, tropical storms would strike between November and May. Today the season runs from October to June instead, he said….

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