Understanding Extreme Events in the Pacific Basin

Extreme events include everything from the floods that displace us from our homes to the high waves that wash out coastal roads to the toppling of trees and power poles from passing storms. For locations around the Pacific Basin, where remote island chains sit perilously close to sea level and where rainfall is the primary source of water, the frequency, duration, and severity of these events is a major concern. To reduce their vulnerability to the social, economic, and environmental risks associated with these events, communities and businesses, as well as government agencies and the scientific community, need access to information that enables them to better understand, anticipate, and adapt.

To provide these decision makers with this information, NCDC led the development of the Pacific Storms Climatology Products project (Pacific Storms) with partners from around the region. Pacific Storms strives to improve our understanding of patterns and trends in storm frequency and intensity—“storminess”—from strong winds, heavy rains, and high seas within the Pacific Basin. This effort resulted in the integration of theme-specific data and the formation of product development teams to conduct analyses and create a broad suite of user-friendly data products, which are publicly available online (http://www.pacificstormsclimatology.org). These teams included representatives from NCDC, as well as NOAA’s Center for Operational Products and Services, NOAA’s Coastal Services Center, NOAA’s National Weather Service, the University of Hawaii, the University of Alaska, the University of Guam, and Oregon State University.

The data analysis and product development produced by Pacific Storms will help users explore how extreme events were expressed historically and how they may be expected to be expressed in a changing climate. Additionally, Pacific Storms provides access to information to help users learn about the climate-related processes that govern extreme storm events. An article led by NCDC Scientist Michael Kruk, entitled “Pacific Storms Climatology Products: Understanding Extreme Events,” which describes the team’s collaborative efforts, has been accepted for publication in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and should appear in print this fall.