Weather-related disasters and climate change impacts are unravelling the fabric of society in the South-West Pacific. Sea level rise threatens the future of low-lying islands whilst increasing ocean heat and acidification harms vital and vulnerable marine ecosystems, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The report was released at the Third Pacific Ministerial Meeting on Meteorology (PMMM-3) and the First Development Partners and Donors Engagement Meeting in Fiji. The meetings, which are all interlinked, are guided by the theme: “Sustaining Weather, Climate, Water and Ocean Services for a Resilient Blue Pacific.
The WMO report says that sea-level rise rates were, in general, slightly higher than the global mean rate, reaching approximately 4 mm per year in several areas.
Despite La Niña conditions, marine heatwaves occurred in various parts of the region. The most prominent and persistent marine heatwaves occurred in a large area north-east of Australia and south of Papua New Guinea in the Solomon and Coral Seas, over a period of more than six months.
The ocean has taken up more than 90% of the excess heat in the climate system. Ocean warming contributes about 40% of the observed global mean sea-level rise through thermal expansion of seawater. It is altering ocean currents, indirectly altering storm tracks and affecting marine ecosystems.
“If we are seeing the evidence then there must be action on the ground,” said Hon Moana Ainuu, Miniter of Meteorology of the Government of Niue.
“We must do something. Our efforts and our work must have a positive impact for our people. We cannot sit here and see the evidence in a report such as this and not do anything. Our partners must collaborate with us, work with us for our literal survival. How much more science is needed before we take heed?”