Monday, August 14, 2017

Climate Change Impact - Part 7 - Vanuatu

Climate Change Impact

Part 7: Example – Vanuatu


The project examined projected changes to road flooding for four islands of the Vanuatu archipelago. The conclusion was that rainfall intensities would increase for all islands, particularly at the lower durations and return periods critical for road drainage.


This example looks at the estimation of road flooding in Vanuatu. The islands of Vanuatu stretch from 13°S to 20°S and 116.e°E to 170.25°E. They lie about 2000 km from the coast of Australia.

The following chart shows the layout of the islands of Vanuatu. The four islands highlighted in green, Ambae, Pentecost, Malekula and Tanna, were included in the study. The red crosses mark the location of climate measurement sites. The roads on the islands are being upgraded and for this it was necessary to ensure that road drainage would be effective for the whole life of the road taking into account projected climate change.

Figure 1 Vanuatu showing the site of climate stations

Flooding on the islands can occur very suddenly and result in flash flooding with rapid increase in flow depth. The following photograph was taken the day following a storm.  The stream itself can been to the left of photograph. The highlighted area, near the tree, shows floating material trapped in the branches showing the depth of flooding. This indicates the degree of flood problems to tackled.

Figure 2 Material trapped in branches during a flood.

Current Climate

Daily observed climate data were obtained from 3 sources:
  •  The Vanuatu Meteorological and Geohazards Department (MGHD)
  •  The National Climate Data Center (NCDC) which is part of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration in the USA
  • TuTiempo web site

Data from the Meteorological Office was for Bauerfield, Efate and three stations on Tanna. All stations had daily precipitation and Bauerfield included temperature and wind speed. Data from NCDC was for Pekoa, Spiritu Santo, for daily precipitation and temperature. The data from TuTiempo were available for 6 sites and included precipitation, temperature, wind speed and relative humidity.

Where data were available from different sources for overlapping periods, their values were compared and were found to be compatible.

Data were also obtained on storm rainfall profiles. For road drainage, the critical time of a storm is often of the order of a few minutes so daily data on its own is not sufficient.

Climate projections

Projections were provided from PACCSAP (Pacific-Australia Climate Change Science and Adaptation Planning) and included precipitation projections in NetCDF (Network Common Data Format) for the whole world at the grid spacing of the original models. These are:

  •         ACCESS1-3, 1.875° longitude, 1.25° latitude (220km x 147km)
  •         CNRM-CM5, 1.4° longitude, 1.4° latitude (165km x 165 km)
  •         GISS-E2-R, 2.5° longitude, 2.0° latitude (294km x 235 km)

A further data set of projections was provided for which all the files had RX1Day in their title. They had been produced from the 50-km downscaling CCAM normal-cubic atmospheric model, a stretched-grid atmospheric model. They followed the guidelines of “Expert Team on Climate Change Detection and Indices (ETCCDI)”. These had projections of daily rainfall for three RCPs (RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5) and for 4 time-horizons (2030, 2050, 2070 and 2090).

Downscaling was carried out using the Delta Method.

The baseline period was 1987 to 2013 which had observed data. For consistency, the 2030 projection was based on the same number of years, 2027 to 2043. The 2055 projections used values from 2042 to 2068.

The temperature projections were consistent with different models showing similar increases. For precipitation, the projections were less consistent with higher values of RCP leading to higher rainfall for some models and lower rainfall for others.

The conclusions for the four islands were:

  • Ambae: Rainfall intensity is likely to increase for 2030 by about 15% for the 1-in-2-year storm up to about 30% for higher return periods. The additional increase for 2055 relative to 2030 is about 4%.
  • Pentecost: As with Ambae, the percentage increase is less for small return periods, 20% for 1-in-2, but up to 32% for 1-in-100. The 2055 projection is almost identical to the 2030 projection.
  • Malekula: The projections suggest storm rainfall intensity will increase from the baseline to the 2030 time horizon but after that will remain more or less constant. It is also noticeable that increases in storm intensity for low return periods are small, 18%, but increase for longer return periods, about 33%. The 2055 projection is slightly lower than the 2030 projection.
  • Tanna: The projections for this island were lower than those for the other islands.

Figure 3 Daily rainfall intensity for different  islands and return periods

The above chart shows the daily rainfall intensity for different return period on each island for 2055.

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