La Niña is a Spanish term which means "a girl", and is the name given to the phenomenon where the trade winds become stronger, enhancing the warm pool in the western Pacific and causing the sea surface temperatures in the Central and eastern Pacific become cooler.
As a result, Pacific islands in the central Pacific region such as Kiribati, Nauru and Tuvalu may experience below normal rainfall during this period, while islands in the South-West Pacific will usually experience higher than normal rainfall, such Fiji, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Southern Cook Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.
La Niña is part of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is a major climate driver that influences normal rainfall, temperature, and sea level patterns across the Pacific. ENSO is a slow onset event, whereby the impacts are not felt immediately by Pacific islands but gradually over time, unlike events such as tropical cyclones, whereby the impacts are felt as soon as the events occur.
“These phenomenon may sound scientific, but the fact is that these terms and what they are will have direct impact on our lives in the Pacific, they will affect our food crops, our hygiene in the time of COVID-19, and our safety with the impacts of tropical cyclone season and floods or landslides in some parts of the region and potential drought in others,” said Ms Tagaloa Cooper, Director of Climate Change Resilience.