Pacific Climate Aspects of the 2013 Drought in the Republic of the Marshall Islands

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner
Thursday, 6 February 2014: 11:00 AM
Room C101 (The Georgia World Congress Center )
Charles 'Chip' Guard, NOAA/NWS, Barrigada, Guam; and M. A. Lander

In the first half of 2013, the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) experienced one of its most severe droughts in recent history. The drought was especially hard-felt in the northern islands and atolls of the RMI. Accurate and timely rainfall monitoring and prediction is very important for the RMI, as drought can lead to death and suffering in a matter of just a few months. This event affected over 6,300 people in the RMI, and required more than 3 million US dollars in initial relief. Drought in the RMI can often be attributed to various Pacific Climate patterns such as El Niņo, but the 2013 event does not appear to be the direct result of either El Niņo or La Niņa. However, it may in some way, be tied to the current cool mode of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and its propensity to impose La Niņa-like patterns across Micronesia (Equator-20N, 130E-180), even during ENSO-neutral or weak El Niņo phases of ENSO. The cause of the severity of the 2013 drought may in some way also be associated with the observed drying trend of rainfall in the RMI over the last 50 years. This trend may be a reflection of natural climate variability or it could be a manifestation of longer term climate change. This study investigates the potential causes of the 2013 drought, discusses the quality and value of the rainfall monitoring and predictions, and addresses the societal impacts of the drought. The US and RMI National Weather Service forecast and monitoring support prior to and during the event, the in-place disaster response mechanisms, and to some extent the US and regional governing programs and policies are highlighted.