Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016GU304B

Real-time investigation of the impacts of the 2015-16 El Nin water resources in the FSM

Institute: Guam
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $15,729 Total Non-Federal Funds: Not available

Principal Investigators: Mark Lander, Shahram Khosrowpanah

Abstract: A major El Nis nearing its peak (Rasmussen and Carpenter 1982, Ropelewski and Halpert 1987, and PEAC 2015), with commonly used indices of El Niising to levels seen only two other times in the past 60 years: the epic El Nivents of 1982-83 and 1997-98. All states of the FSM are vulnerable to damaging extremes of weather during the roughly 18-month course of an El Nivent. Through the first year of a strong El Nithe region typically experiences an abundance of typhoons, other extremes of heavy rainfall, and high surf raised by the typhoons and unusual monsoonal winds. The year 2015 indeed saw such conditions, with nearly all the islands of the FSM experiencing damaging effects from typhoons and other severe weather conditions. Two particularly intense typhoons caused severe damage: Typhoon Maysak destroyed much of Ulithi Atoll in April, and a month later, Typhoon Dolphin tracked across the Chuuk Lagoon, bringing destructive winds to most of the islands therein. In the first few months of the calendar year that follows a strong El Nithis will be the case for 2016), the rainfall across all of Micronesia tends to be well below normal. Sharply reduced rainfall can quickly become a life-threatening emergency as reservoirs and rain catchment systems run dry, and agricultural plants are damaged. This is especially true on atolls where the water lenses are thin and rain catchment is a prominent source of drinking water. Micronesia-wide severe droughts in 1983, 1992 and 1998 required the deployment of U.S. military assets to the islands of the FSM to help transport and generate drinking water supplies. Since widespread drought across the FSM typically follows a strong El Niit is therefore potentially foreseeable a few months in advance. Indeed, nearly all local and regional meteorological and hydrological service agencies (e.g., the Weather Forecast Offices of the FSM, the Guam Weather Service Forecast Office, the Pacific ENSO Applications Climate Center, and additional international agencies) anticipate a Micronesia-wide severe drought during the first 6 months of 2016. In summary, the 2015-16 El Nis now at its peak. The FSM has already been harshly impacted by numerous typhoons and other extremes of rainfall and high seas. A major drought is expected to grip the entire region during the first 6 months of 2016. The objectives of this project are to: (1) Travel to all four states of the FSM in May or June of 2016 to observe and gather data on the effects (earlier typhoons and later drought) of the 2015-16 El Nin the region; (2) Visit with representatives of water resource management (e.g. water treatment facility operators) to get a detailed picture of the impacts in each state of the 2015-16 El Nielated typhoons, extreme rains, sea inundations and drought. (3) Determine the efficacy of practices taken (if any) to lessen the impacts of the 2015-16 El Ni (4) Develop an outreach itinerary for group discussion of drought during FSM visits.