Tuvalu Meteorological Service

Tuvalu Meteorology Service, Fongafale, Funafuti atoll
Agency overview
JurisdictionGovernment of Tuvalu
8°19′S 179°08′E / 8.32°S 179.13°E / -8.32; 179.13
Employees14 meteorological officers and observers; 4 technical staff[1]
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Nikotemo Iona, Director (2019)[2]
Parent agencyMinistry of Works Communications and Transport
WebsiteTuvalu Meteorological Service website
WMO Stn. No. 91643 GSN, RBSN, GUAN

The Tuvalu Meteorological Service (TMS) is the principal meteorological observatory of Tuvalu and is responsible for providing weather services to the islands of Tuvalu. A meteorological office was established on Funafuti at the time the islands of Tuvalu were administered as parts of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands colony of the United Kingdom. The meteorological office is now an agency of the government of Tuvalu.[3]

The main observational office is on Funafuti. TMS operates outstations on Nanumea, Nui and Niulakita.[1] TMS operates or monitors: 4 synoptic stations; 5 rainfall stations; 1 upper air research program; 1 tide gauge with Tsunami warning system; 1 Continuous Global Positioning System (CGPS) station; 1 seismic station.[1]

The TMS publishes weather forecasts, warnings as to tropical cyclones, weather charts and weather satellite images on its website, with weather forecasts and storm warnings also broadcast by the Tuvalu Media Corporation, which operates Radio Tuvalu.[4]


The meteorological office on Funafuti was established in 1951 under the auspices of the South Pacific Air Transport Council (SPATC).[5] An upper air observation programme was established in 1960. After the dissolution of SPATC in 1979, the Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited supported the upper air programme until the TMS assumed responsibility for the programme, with continuing support by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)/NZAID.[5] The TMS works with the New Zealand MetService, the Fiji Meteorological Service, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Geoscience Australia, the United States Geological Survey and the National Weather Service.[6]

Ms Hilai Vavae retired as Director of the Tuvalu Met Service in 2014.[7]

Climatology of Tuvalu

Sea surface temperature anomalies in November 2007 showing La Niña conditions. Blue=temperature below average; red=temperature above average

Tuvalu participates in the operations of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).[8] The climate of the Pacific region at the equator is influenced by a number of factors; the science of which is the subject of continuing research. The SPREP described the climate of Tuvalu as being:

[I]nfluenced by a number of factors such as trade wind regimes, the paired Hadley cells and Walker circulation, seasonally varying convergence zones such as the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ), semi-permanent subtropical high-pressure belts, and zonal westerlies to the south, with the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) as the dominant mode of year to year variability (…). The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) also is a major mode of variability of the tropical atmosphere-ocean system of the Pacific on times scales of 30 to 70 days (…), while the leading mode with decadal time-scale is the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation (IPO) (…). A number of studies suggest the influence of global warming could be a major factor in accentuating the current climate regimes and the changes from normal that come with ENSO events (…).[9]

The sea level in Tuvalu varies as a consequence of a wide range of atmospheric and oceanographic influences. The 2011 report of the Pacific Climate Change Science Program published by the Australian Government,[10] describes a strong zonal (east‑to-west) sea-level slope along the equator, with sea level west of the International Date Line (180° longitude) being about a half metre higher than found in the eastern equatorial Pacific and South American coastal regions. The trade winds that push surface water westward create this zonal tilting of sea level on the equator. Below the equator a higher sea level can also be found about 20° to 40° south (Tuvalu is spread out from 6° to 10° south). The Pacific Climate Change Science Program Report (2011) [11] describes the year-by-year volatility in the sea-level as resulting from the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO):

ENSO has a major influence on sea levels across the Pacific and this can influence the occurrence of extreme sea levels. During La Niña events, strengthened trade winds cause higher than normal sea levels in the western tropical Pacific, and lower than normal levels in the east. Conversely, during El Niño events, weakened trade winds are unable to maintain the normal gradient of sea level across the tropical Pacific, leading to a drop in sea level in the west and a rise in the east. Pacific islands within about 10° of the equator are most strongly affected by ENSO‑related sea-level variations."[11]

The Pacific (inter-)decadal oscillation is a climate switch phenomenon that results in changes from periods of La Niña to periods of El Niño. This has an effect on sea levels. For example, in 2000 there was a switch from periods of downward pressure of El Niño on sea levels to an upward pressure of La Niña on sea levels, which upward pressure causes more frequent and higher high tide levels. The Perigean spring tide (often called a king tide) can result in seawater flooding low-lying areas of the islands of Tuvalu.[12]

Role of the Tuvalu Meteorological Service

The purpose of the meteorological programmes operated by the TMS is to gather data in the tropical western Pacific so as to work to achieve “accurate production of weather forecasts, seasonal and interannual climate forecasting (ENSO predictions), and understanding changes in climate and sea level for Tuvalu and its neighbouring Pacific Islands. Tuvalu lies across a known development region for tropical cyclones and ENSO activity. It provides crucial data to global weather, climate modelling and forecasting centres. It also provides the key data used for tropical cyclone and ENSO forecasting.”[5]

Meteorological programmes

The TMS operates 2 meteorological programmes (surface observation programme and upper air programme) and hosts other climatological research projects.[5]

Surface observations

The TMS carries out ground level observations of various weather elements. This data is shared with collaborating partners in the World Meteorological Organization - World Weather Watch (WWW),[13] the Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)[14] and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).

Upper air observations

A radiosonde shortly after launch.

The upper air observation programme in Funafuti makes radiosonde observations to collect upper air weather for weather forecasting and research. The radiosonde observations use a small, expendable instrument package is suspended below a 2 metres (6.6 ft) wide balloon filled with hydrogen or helium. As the radiosonde rises at about 300 meters/minute (1,000 ft/min), sensors on the radiosonde measure profiles of pressure, temperature, and relative humidity. These sensors are linked to a battery-powered radio transmitter that sends the sensor measurements to a ground receiver. By tracking the position of the radiosonde in flight, information on wind speed and direction are also obtained.

The data is shared with Regional Specialized Meteorological Centers (RSMCs) in Nadi, Wellington, Brisbane, Melbourne and Honolulu. The weather modelling carried out by the RSMCs enables more accurate forecasts to be prepared for Tuvalu and for the tropical western Pacific.[5]

Tropical cyclone prediction

The meteorological observations of the TMS are shared with other regional agencies that attempt to predict how many tropical cyclones and severe tropical cyclones will develop within the Southern Pacific. New Zealand's National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA)[15] and collaborating agencies including the Meteorological Service of New Zealand and Pacific Island National Meteorological Services (including the TMS) issue the "Island Climate Update Tropical Cyclone Outlook" for the Pacific. This forecast attempts to predict how many tropical cyclones and severe tropical cyclones will develop within the Southern Pacific between 135°E and 120°W as well as how many will affect a particular island nation. The Fiji Meteorological Service, while collaborating with NIWA and partners, also publishes its own seasonal forecast for the South Pacific basin between 160°E and 120°W.[5] The data collected by the regional meteorological agencies is provided to the World Meteorological Organisation, which publishes current tropical cyclone information for the South-West Pacific Ocean.[16]

Other climatological research programmes and projects

The TMS also hosts other scientific and research programmes, which involves the TMS monitoring:

TMS participates in research projects including:

Membership of meteorological and geoscience organizations

TMS participates in the activities of:


  1. ^ a b c Katea, Tauala (6 April 2007). "Strategic Planning of Tuvalu Meteorological Service 2007 – 2011" (PDF). Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  2. ^ Eleanor Ainge Roy (17 May 2019). "'One day we'll disappear': Tuvalu's sinking islands". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 May 2019.
  3. ^ Katea, Tauala (25 June 2008). "Funafuti Meteorological Observatory" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  4. ^ North, Rosemarie (20 May 2015). "Fusing tradition and technology to protect communities in Tuvalu". The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Retrieved 21 May 2015.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Current Warnings: Tuvalu". Fiji Meteorological Organisation: RSMC-Nadi-Tropical Cyclone Centre. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  6. ^ "El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Diagnostic Discussion - NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction (U.S. National Weather Service)". Tuvalu Meteorological Service. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  7. ^ Malaki, Semi (9 March 2015). "Three women to contest for the General Election" (PDF). Fenui News. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
  8. ^ "SPREP". Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program. 2009. Retrieved 22 Oct 2011.
  9. ^ "Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change Tuvalu Report of In-Country Consultations" (PDF). Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP). 2009. Retrieved 13 Oct 2011.
  10. ^ "Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research". Pacific Climate Change Science Program (Australian Government). November 2011. Archived from the original on 12 March 2011. Retrieved 19 April 2014.
  11. ^ a b "Ch.2 Climate of the Western Tropical Pacific and East Timor" (PDF). Climate Change in the Pacific: Volume 1: Regional Overview. Australia Government: Pacific Climate Change Science Program. 2011. p. 26.
  12. ^ Packard, Aaron (12 March 2015). "The Unfolding Crisis in Kiribati and the Urgency of Response". HuffPostGreen. Retrieved 14 March 2015.
  13. ^ "World Meteorological Organization". Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  14. ^ "Global Climate Observing System (GCOS)". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  15. ^ "National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd". NIWA. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  16. ^ "Current Tropical Cyclone Information: South-West Pacific Ocean". World Meteorological Organisation: Severe Weather Information Centre. Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  17. ^ Hunter, John R. (2002). "A Note on Relative Sea Level Change at Funafuti, Tuvalu" (PDF). Antarctic Cooperative Research Centre. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 October 2011. Retrieved 13 October 2011.
  18. ^ "SPSLCMP: South Pacific Sea Level and Climate Monitoring Project". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  19. ^ Lal, Andrick. "SOPAC Trip Report 346: CGPS Maintenance Survey Visit – Tuvalu (South Pacific Sea Level & Climate Monitoring Project Phase III)" (PDF). South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  20. ^ a b "Climate and Ocean Monitoring and Prediction". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  21. ^ "SCOPIC: Seasonal Climate Outlooks in Pacific Island Countries". Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Retrieved 18 April 2014.
  22. ^ "Pacific Meteorological Council". Archived from the original on 19 April 2014. Retrieved 18 April 2014.

See also