In most countries, weather and seasonal climate forecasts are available through national meteorological services (NMSs). However, uptake of NMS forecasts in remote Pacific communities can be limited, particularly those relating to expected impacts. To address this, NMSs need a clearer understanding of the types of information local communities currently use and how this information is received, to enable them to modify their products and their delivery to better meet community needs.
Structured community interviews across four Pacific countries (Niue, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu) were undertaken by NMSs and their in-country partners. These interviews highlighted that remote communities mainly relied on weather and climate forecasts based on traditional knowledge (TK) alone or in combination with contemporary (NMS) forecasts. Many who had access to both forecasts systems indicated that they only sourced contemporary forecasts in the lead up to and during extreme events, particularly cyclones, to assist their decision-making.
Recent extreme events in the Pacific have shown that self-reliant communities, with knowledge of traditional ways of forecasting, and responding to climate extremes, experience several benefits including reduced social-economic disruption and lower than expected death rates, particularly when combined with contemporary warnings. Therefore, there is a need to better understand the role of local traditional knowledge-based forecasts and for NMSs to work towards improving the content and communication of their forecasts to enable communities to take advantage of all available forecast information. For effective risk reduction, warnings and responses should therefore complement contemporary forecasts, rather than replace, TK-based forecasts.