Tropical cyclone perceptions, impacts and adaptation in the Southwest Pacific: an urban perspective from Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga
- 1Environmental and Climate Change Research Group (ECCRG), School of Environmental and Life Sciences, Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia
- 2Centre for Water, Climate and Land-Use (CWCL), Faculty of Science and Information Technology, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, NSW, 2308, Australia
- 3Kagoshima University Research Centre for the Pacific Islands, Kagoshima University, Kagoshima, Japan
- 4School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP), Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
Abstract. The destruction caused by tropical cyclone (TC) Pam in March 2015 is considered one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vanuatu. It has highlighted the need for a better understanding of TC impacts and adaptation in the Southwest Pacific (SWP) region. Therefore, the key aims of this study are to (i) understand local perceptions of TC activity, (ii) investigate impacts of TC activity and (iii) uncover adaptation strategies used to offset the impacts of TCs. To address these aims, a survey (with 130 participants from urban areas) was conducted across three SWP small island states (SISs): Fiji, Vanuatu and Tonga (FVT). It was found that respondents generally had a high level of risk perception and awareness of TCs and the associated physical impacts, but lacked an understanding of the underlying weather conditions. Responses highlighted that current methods of adaptation generally occur at the local level, immediately prior to a TC event (preparation of property, gathering of food, finding a safe place to shelter). However higher level adaptation measures (such as the modification to building structures) may reduce vulnerability further. Finally, we discuss the potential of utilising weather-related traditional knowledge and non-traditional knowledge of empirical and climate-model-based weather forecasts to improve TC outlooks, which would ultimately reduce vulnerability and increase adaptive capacity. Importantly, lessons learned from this study may result in the modification and/or development of existing adaptation strategies.