Cyclone danger still lurks

Saturday March 31, 2018 Written by Published in Weather

The sea surface temperature recently recorded in the northern group waters is ideal to trigger a cyclone in the remainder of the 2017/18 cyclone season which ends next month.


Cook Islands Meteorological Service director Arona Ngari said the sea surface temperature in the northern islands was about 27 to 28C.

Based on this temperature reading, there was a risk that it could generate a source of energy for a cyclone to form, he added.

“There are criteria for tropical cyclones to be born and one of is the sea surface temperature.

“The ideal sea surface temperature for cyclone to form is a minimum of 27C. It’s like a warm pool of water that acts as a fuel container for tropical cyclone because in order for water to rise, it got to be heated up.”

Once that warm air rose, it started generating and feeding the system to assist the system further intensify and by the time it started moving, the wind circulating around the eye of cyclone became much quicker, Ngari said.    

“Keeping an eye on the high sea temperature is a good indicator for us to know if there is any cyclone forming.”

The cyclone season in the Cook Islands normally runs from November to April, but Ngari said this could extend to a couple more months.

While the cyclone season ran for six months, sometimes it could extend to seven or eight months of the year.

“We are never out of the woodwork until after April. People should be vigilant and tune into television, radio, newspapers and any other news media that can be reliable in terms of information on the weather.”

Last year NIWA and Met Service of New Zealand predicted around eight to 10 named tropical cyclones for the Southwest Pacific region, which includes the Cook Islands, in the 2017/18 cyclone season.

They said the Cook Islands was unlikely to face the direct brunt of any of these predicted storms

So far in the Pacific, 10 tropical depressions and four tropical cyclones have formed, with Cyclone Gita in February being the strongest.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Gita which affected Tonga and neighbouring Samoa and American Samoa, caused damage of about $265 million.

The deadliest cyclone this decade was TC Winston which devastated Fiji and caused damage of about $1.9 billion. It also caused 44 deaths.

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