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It's getting hotter, day and night

Margaret Wise
Friday, March 23, 2012

FIJI's vulnerability to climate change includes an increase in extreme rainfall events, an increase in the incidence of hot days and warm nights, and further rise of sea level.

This, according to the 530-page, two-volume scientific report called "Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research".

A product of the Pacific Climate Change Science Program, the report details how the climate in the Pacific, including Fiji, has changed and may change in the future.

The $A20million ($F36.7m) science program aims to help Australia's neighbouring island countries gain a better understanding of how climate change will affect the region.

Australia's Bureau of Meteorology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation the national government body for scientific research in Australia delivered the program through their research partnership in The Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research.

With more than 100 contributing authors, "Climate Change in the Pacific" is the result of three years of collaboration between Australian scientists and agencies in the Pacific. Volume one of the report presents a regional overview and the second volume comprises individual reports tailored for the 15 participating countries.

While uncertainties remain for tropical cyclone projections, the report projects they will occur less frequently in the Pacific Ocean over the 21st century. Projections also suggest an increase in the proportion of storms in the more intense categories.

The pages on Fiji showed that mean sea level was projected to continue to rise over the course of the 21st century and little change was projected in the incidence of drought. While tropical cyclone numbers were projected to decline, an increase in the proportion of the most severe storms is predicted.

Wet season rainfall and an increase in intensity and frequency of days of extreme rainfall were also projected over the 21st century.

And the projection that the intensity and frequency of days of extreme heat was also expected to increase over this period "is physically consistent with rising greenhouse and gas concentrations".

On ocean acidification and its serious impacts for coral reefs, the report said "the rate of ocean acidification is driven primarily by the increasing oceanic uptake of carbon dioxide, in response to rising atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations".

"The impact of acidification change on health and reef ecosystems is likely to be corrupted by other stressors including coral bleaching, storm damage and fishing pressure."

PCCSP's research included the examination of past climate trends and variability and providing regional and national climate projections. The program actively engaged with 15 partner countries and regional stakeholders to build their capacity to effectively apply the results and to build the climate science knowledge base.

Pacific islands countries have reported serious and immediate challenges from climate change but there has been limited reliable detailed scientific information available. This report is helping to fill this gap it provides the most comprehensive scientific analysis so far of climate change in the Pacific region.

The history of climate change in the Pacific includes a rise in air temperatures that is consistent with the global pattern of warming. All of the island stations analysed exhibit warming trends since 1960, with increases of 0.4 degrees Celcius to 1.0 degrees Celcius. The past decade was the warmest on record.

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