Drought Break­ing Fiji Day Rains

Fiji Sun - - Nation - Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj Sushil Sharma

Sushil K. Sharma is an As­so­ci­ate Pro­fes­sor of Me­te­o­rol­ogy at the Fiji Na­tional Univer­sity and is also a cer­ti­fied World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion Class 1 pro­fes­sional Me­te­o­rol­o­gist. The views ex­pressed are his own and not nec­es­sar­ily that of his em­ployer.

Fiji Day – the 46th an­niver­sary of in­de­pen­dence Mon­day, October 10, was her­alded by wide­spread con­tin­u­ous heavy rains over the en­tire 300 is­land na­tion. The Ja­panese Geo­sta­tion­ary Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Satel­lite named HIMAWARI, lo­cated in or­bit over Pa­pua New Guinea at a height of 13,500 kilo­me­tres, show­ing ex­ten­sive cloud cover over and be­yond Fiji in all flanks, with very high in­ten­sity rains of over 50 to 80 mil­lime­tres per hour (mm/hr).

Na­tional land-based me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal radars around the na­tion at Nadi, Nau­sori, and Labasa, with scan­ning ca­pa­bil­ity out­wards to dis­tances of 500 kilo­me­tres (km), showed very wide spread echoes bounc­ing back from very mo­bile and ex­tremely ac­tive rain bands in which were em­bed­ded 100-200 km long squall lines, mov­ing rapidly lon­gi­tu­di­nally, at in­ter­vals. Due to th­ese rapidly mov­ing and ex­tremely mo­bile and ac­tive squall lines em­bed­ded in rain bands, some parts of the na­tion was put through some very strong and blus­tery winds of about 50 -65 km/hr with the en­tire na­tion’s land ar­eas un­der a strong wind warn­ing and a flood alert for the low ly­ing ar­eas. Thus, as dawn broke over the na­tion on Fiji Day, the heav­ens def­i­nitely were in a good mood to bless us all in the usual way, en­er­get­i­cally and clearly – an­nounc­ing with re­lent­less vigour and a per­sis­tent rap­tur­ous – ec­static – over­joyed – and a thrilled sym­phony of melody over our rooftops with very big heavy rain drops over our rooftops.

The dark, dreary, blis­tery and wet con­di­tions with per­sis­tent gusts brought back the haunt­ing mem­o­ries of the few days and hours be­fore the on­slaught of TC Win­ston over Fiji this year. TC Win­ston had cut across the na­tion on Fe­bru­ary 20 and 21, 2016, as a Cat­e­gory 5 Se­vere Trop­i­cal Cy­clone. The weather was al­most rem­i­nis­cent of the pe­riod just be­fore the ar­rival of some ad­verse trop­i­cal re­volv­ing sys­tem that peo­ple in this part of the world are used to.

Friends cried out and asked if it was the cy­clone sea­son al­ready, only to be cor­rected that the squalls were as­so­ci­ated with a trough of low pres­sure with as­so­ci­ated cloud band over Fiji, and was slowly travers­ing east­wards across Fiji in an easterly di­rec­tion. The Fiji Day rains over were wide­spread and very marked and many ar­eas re­ceived cu­mu­la­tive to­tals in 24-hour pe­ri­ods up­wards of be­tween 100 to 200 mil­lime­tres. The rains were wide­spread and heavy and pro­vided enough rains to break the agri­cul­tural drought over Fiji’s largest is­lands in­clud­ing all mar­itime is­lands. Agri­cul­tural drought had been grip­ping many parts of Fiji un­til now es­pe­cially western and north­ern di­vi­sions of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu and many mar­itime is­lands. The only ma­jor rain over Fiji dur­ing the dry sea­son this year was in Au­gust, when Fiji re­ceived sub­stan­tial rains which were above the monthly av­er­age to­tals. In some ways the syn­op­tic sys­tems im­pact­ing Fiji and the devel­op­ment and ar­rival of closed low pres­sure sys­tems so close in the vicin­ity of our trop­i­cal lat­i­tude, in some ways was the defin­ing phase for a very slow start to a tran­si­tion from win­ter time to sum­mer time en­croach­ment of syn­op­tic sys­tems over our part of the world.

Tra­di­tion­ally, ar­eas south of us, have per­sis­tent high pres­sure sys­tems mov­ing lat­i­tu­di­nally east­wards in win­ter in­ter­spersed with pe­ri­odic frontal sys­tems ex­tend­ing area of low pres­sure, from mi­grat­ing deep lows over the Tas­man Sea and New Zealand re­gions. Th­ese sys­tems sus­tain and main­tain cool southerly winds over Fiji re­gions in win­ter, which is why our weather is sup­posed to be very cool, pleas­ant with dry air – with an ab­sence of moist hu­mid air. Hu­mid air­flow over us, which is com­mon in sum­mer, is of­ten very un­pleas­ant and in­creases the hu­man dis­com­fort in­dex.

Af­ter re­lent­less wide­spread rains dur­ing the whole Fiji Day with blus­tery and gloomy wet con­di­tions, there came upon the na­tion, a tem­po­rary clear­ance en­croach­ing from the Western Divi­sion, with stars and even the moon clearly vis­i­ble. High level al­tocu­mu­lus clouds her­alded the in­crease in the at­mo­spheric baro­met­ric pres­sure, with the baro­graph show­ing a rise – as the ma­jor trough of low pres­sure with as­so­ci­ated cloud and rain bands moved over Tonga. Rain had ceased com­pletely and the winds were dead calm.

Trees and shrubs were still as if we were in the eye of a trop­i­cal cy­clone, wait­ing for a sud­den change. By morn­ing the sun came up with bright sunny clear con­di­tions. Satel­lite pic­tures clearly showed that the na­tion was in the clear but ly­ing be­tween the sig­nif­i­cant weather sys­tem over Tonga and a much lesser sig­nif­i­cant cloud band­ing far west of us over New Cale­do­nia and Van­u­atu re­gion, an­chored to a sur­face low pres­sure sys­tem. It was thus ex­pected to pro­vide a brief pe­riod of bad weather as it passed over the na­tion later Tues­day. The Fiji Day rains over the two 24-hour suc­ces­sive pe­ri­ods from 9 am 9/10/16 to 9am 10/10/16, and 9 am 10/10/16 to 11/10/16 were as fol­lows: Nadi Air­port 15, 47mm, Lautoka 29, 39mm, Rarawai 23, 74mm, Pe­nang 16, 37mm, Nau­sori Air­port 32, 70mm, Suva 57, 20 mm, Navua 27, 65mm, Na­co­colevu 31, 45mm, Monosavu 57, 58mm, Udu Point Trace, 26 mm, Savusavu 01, 54 mm, Dreketi 09, 75mm, Seaqaqa NIL, 65 mm, Labasa Air­port NIL, 100mm, Viwa 31 , 38mm, Ya­sawa 77, 81mm, Vu­nisea 04, 50mm, Matuku 03 , 49 mm, Ono-i-Lau 64, 121mm, and Lakeba 01, 71mm. Though it meant dis­rup­tions to many sport­ing and plea­sure events dur­ing October 9 and10, 2016; a time when peo­ple flock to the beaches and cool off on a Pub­lic Hol­i­day on Mon­day – af­ter a num­ber of days of hec­tic celebration and feast­ing with fam­ily and friends; the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion would have wel­comed the drought break­ing rains. By 11.30am the sunny con­di­tions over Fiji were slowly be­com­ing sub­dued with high level cir­rus from the west flow­ing onto the group, herald­ing the ar­rival of the lesser sig­nif­i­cant fea­ture ly­ing to the west of Fiji. Radar pic­tures, clearly show­ing the ap­proach­ing rain bands, only 200 km west of Nadi Air­port and Lautoka. It was ex­pected to give wide­spread rains over Fiji again Tues­day af­ter­noon, start­ing at around 1 to 2 PM with some squally con­di­tions. It was ex­pected that late night the weather would clear with fine sunny con­di­tions over Fiji to­mor­row.

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