Fewer cyclones than predicted in El Nino summer – NIWA

Photo: Supplied / Joseph Molkis

The cyclone season in the South Pacific – which came to an end on 30 April – finished with fewer cyclones than what was forecast, during a bizarre El Niño event.

The El Niño weather pattern was supposed to result in a high number of cyclones in the South Pacific, however, there were only seven – two fewer than the long-term average.

Meteorologist Ben Noll, with New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), said some of the outcomes of this El Niño were “unusual on a global scale and on a regional scale as well”.

“Some of the things that were experienced in terms of weather and climate in the Pacific Islands may not have matched what those islands would have historically expected or experienced, in some of those big El Niño events in the past.”

The cyclone season started with a string of severe tropical cyclones, including the earliest category five cyclone ever in October.

Cyclone Lola damage West Ambrym, on Ambrym island in Vanuatu

Photo: Supplied / Sam Tasso

Noll said September to December was most aligned with a typical El Niño event.

“There were definitely signs that things were going to be off to the races, and it was going to be quite a marathon in terms of cyclone season, but then we hit the new year.”

Noll said there were unique characteristics in the ocean and atmosphere that prevented El Niño from producing more tropical cyclones.

However, NIWA forecast four severe cyclones which did eventuate. Droughts were also expected in some areas of the Pacific which was experienced, especially in parts of Micronesia.