The El Niño “pendulum” began its long swing back late last month, plunging Majuro and the RMI into the beginning stages of a drought. This does not mean RMI is safely out of the bad weather cycle that has surged around the country throughout the summer. But as the weather system shifts, the RMI has one or two months left in the typhoon danger zone, while drought conditions will magnify.
With one exception since October 21, Majuro has seen only “trace” rainfall (what Marshallese call “riab in wõt”) — a dramatic change from the rain deluge since April. In October, Majuro received 10.44 inches of rain, down from the 30-year normal October rainfall of 13.27. Through November 10, Majuro had recorded less than half an inch (.34 inches) of rain, compared to the monthly average of 13.23 inches, according to the Weather Station. This drop off in rain hit Majuro laundromats last weekend, with many shutting their doors for lack of water.
Meantime, Guam-based Pacific El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Applications Climate Center, is describing this year’s El Niño-inspired weather as “wild,” “extreme,” and “unusual.”
Through mid-July, 12 named tropical cyclones (typhoons) were observed in the western north Pacific, including several that did series damage to different islands including RMI. “Three separate instances of damaging sea inundation occurred on some of the atolls of the RMI,” said a recently issued ENSO Center report. “Each of the damaging sea inundations was associated with a tropical cyclone in the region.”
The report makes the point that the threat to RMI of tropical storms is not yet over, even as the El Niño appears to have peaked. “We anticipated two or three typhoons to form in eastern Micronesia (RMI area) from October 2015 through January 2016,” the report said. “These late-season typhoons could be serious threats to some of the atolls of the RMI. The chances are estimated at least 50-50 for another tropical cyclone to bring damaging wind, heavy rainfall and/or high surf to one or more of the atolls of the RMI.”
Next stage of El Niño? Long time with no rain.
“Drought related to El Niño becomes severe early in the year that that follows a strong El Niño (for example, 1983 and 1998),” the ENSO Center report said. “After September, the monthly rainfall begins a steady decline, sinking to well below average during the first fews months — January to May — of the year following.” Majuro and RMI’s weather is clearly following the prediction.
The early stage of drought has started. Majuro Water and Sewer Company’s airport reservoir has been nearly overflowing for most of the year, at 32 million gallons or more. But as of earlier this week, the water inventory had declined to 26.8 million gallons.
Read more about El Niño in the November 13, 2015 edition of the Marshall Islands Journal.