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February heatwave brought Tonga's hottest day on record

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

The hottest day in Tonga's recorded history was 35.5C at Niuafo’ou on February 1 this year, when a long heatwave was experienced during the month prior to Cyclone Winston reaching Tonga.

February's heatwave was felt throughout Tonga.

On February 8, Fua'amotu on Tongatapu recorded a very high 34.4C - a day that was so hot that Fua'amotu had night time temperatures of 28.0C between 3:00am and 6:00am - the same temperature as Niuafo'ou and Niuatoptapu on the same night. Ha'apai was even hotter with 29.0C recorded at 1:00am on February 8. This compared to the lowest night temperature for Fua'amotu of 20.9C a week earlier on February 1. 

The highest maximum temperatures previously recorded for Tonga in the last 10 years were 35.0C at Niuafo'ou on 11 December 2009; 33.8C Fua'amotu on 14 January 2016 and 33.8C for Niuatoputapu on 7 March 2006.

The Mean Maximum daily temperature for January 2016 was 30.4C at Fua'amotu.

The changing temperatures were initiated by the El Niño effect which Tonga Met reported yesterday continues at moderate levels and is likely to end by June.

El Niño causes a lower than normal rainfall and an increase in cyclones. Tonga is still experiencing drought conditions with below normal rainfall recorded from December 2015 to February 2016. Rainfall caused by Cyclone Winston was not enough to ease drought conditions across the country.

Drought continues

Although El Niño is weakening, a drought warning remains in place for Tonga over the next three months.

Rain forecast over the next three months is below average for Vava’u, Ha’apai, Tongatapu and ‘Eua. Average to above average rainfall is forecast for the Niuas.

Tonga Met encouraged Tongans to conserve water especially those on smaller islands that don’t have ground water.

Tips to respond to El Niño effects