Marine Atlas: Maximizing Benefits for Fiji
El Niño conditions
Strong Trade Winds
Weaker Trade Winds
Water Heated by the Sun
Deep Cold Water
Deep Cold Water
larvae (see also chapter “Travellers or homebod- ies”), plastics and oil (see also chapters “Plastic oceans” and “Full speed ahead”). Secondly, currents transport energy in the form of heat. Cur- rents therefore have a significant impact on the global climate. El Niño is an example of the big impact that re- gional climate variability related to ocean currents has on Fiji (see graphs and chapter “Hotter and higher”). Normally, strong trade winds blow from east to west across the Pacific Ocean around the equator. As the winds push warm surface water from South America west towards Asia and Australia, cold water wells up from below in the east to take its place along the west coast of South America. This creates a temperature disparity across the Pacific, which also keeps the trade winds blowing. The accumulation of warm water in the west heats the air, causing it to rise and create unstable weather, making the western Pacific region warm and rainy. Cool, drier air is usually found on the eastern side of the Pacific. In an El Niño year, the trade winds weaken or break down. The warm water that is normally pushed towards the western Pacific washes back across, piling up on the east side of the Pacific from California to Chile, causing rain and storms and increasing the risk of cyclone formation over the tropical Pacific Ocean (Climate Prediction Center, 2005). On the other side, the western Pacific experi- ences particularly dry conditions. The periods 1997–1998 and 2014–2016 witnessed some of the most extreme events on record in the region. In the 1997–1998 wet season, Fiji recorded the lowest ever rainfall at almost all recording sites across the country. The drought led to food and water shortages across Fiji. The western sides of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, as well as the Yasawa Islands, were the worst-hit regions, where 90 per cent of the population received food and water rations. The drought drove Fiji’s economy into the worst recession in its history, hitting food and cash crops hard, with the sugarcane harvest slashed by nearly 50 per cent, causing a FJ$104 million loss in revenue in the sugarcane industry alone (UNOCHA, 2016).
of 2015, El Niño was responsible for about 10 per cent of the temperature rise. In turn, rising global and ocean temperatures may intensify El Niño (Cai et al., 2014).
In summary, sea currents driven by wind, heat and salinity influence not only Fiji’s marine biodi- versity, but also its rainfall patterns and tempera- ture on land.
SEA SURFACE CURRENTS Direction and velocity (m/s)
Fiji Provisional EEZ Boundary Archipelagic Baseline
Sources : Becker et al, 2009; Claus et al, 2016; ESR, 2009; Smith and Sandwell, 1997. Copyright © MACBIO Map produced by GRID-Arendal
Moreover, El Niño contributes to an increase in global temperatures. In the particularly hot year
MAXIMIZING BENEFITS FOR FIJI
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