Predicting the onset of drought in Small Island States in the Pacific region – with an adequate understanding of antecedent conditions, current observations, and probabilities of near-term forecasts – is a significant challenge for climate experts where resources are limited. 

This results in a lack of actionable, early warning information that would allow for proper drought preparations to be activated. For example, there have been several recent cases in the Pacific region where communities have run out of potable drinking water during drought events, endangering lives and hampering recovery efforts. This has also meant that ad-hoc emergency supplies have had to be urgently organized, resulting in higher expenses and increased risk for citizens.

A team at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) focused on working with national meteorological services in three Pacific countries – Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Samoa – to provide open source drought risk monitoring and visualization tools to help overcome this challenge. The goal was to provide climate services staff with the ability to be able to quickly generate improved drought information and policy input for national disaster management agencies and other partners, and to support the development and implementation of Drought Response Plans.