Pacific cyclone season quiet, but vigilance required — meteorologists

WELLINGTON-- The southwest Pacific is having one of its quietest tropical cyclone seasons on record, New Zealand government meteorologists said Friday, warning to island nations to remain vigilant.

The second half -- February to April -- of the 2016-2017 tropical cyclone (TC) season suggested near normal activity could still be expected, said a statement from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA).

The 30-year (1981 to 2010) average number of all named storms was 12.4 in the southwest Pacific each season for November to April.

So far, no named storms have occurred in the southwest Pacific basin, making it one of the quietest seasons on record.

An updated outlook indicated that, from an analysis of past seasons, approximately six named storms could yet be expected.

"The TC outlook for the islands of New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Tonga still indicates two or more cyclones could interact with each of these countries during the late season," said the statement.

Past seasons that had conditions similar to those presently in place suggested the possibility that more than one severe tropical cyclone could occur.

"As a result, all communities should remain vigilant and follow forecast information provided by their national meteorological service," said NIWA.

"As a reminder, all TCs present hazards, regardless of size and intensity, and vigilance when a TC warning is issued is always a prudent course of action."

Southwest Pacific tropical cyclones are grouped into classes ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most intense.

For the remainder of the season, there was a distinct possibility that at least two storms may reach at least category 3 status, bringing maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 118 km per hour.

Of those systems, one storm might reach at least category 4 strength, with maximum sustained wind speeds of at least 159 km per hour.

Category 5 strength TCs, with wind speeds greater than 196 km per hour, had not occurred during seasons that had conditions similar to present, so this was considered unlikely.

Tropical cyclones had a significant impact across the southwest Pacific from year to year.

Vanuatu and New Caledonia typically experienced the greatest activity, with an average of two or three TCs passing close to land each year.

Cyclone Winston killed at least 43 people when it struck Fiji in February last year and Cyclone Pam killed at least 15 people when it hit Vanuatu in March 2015.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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