Hawai‘i and the U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) region spans north to south from the Hawaiian Islands to American Samoa and east to west from the main Hawaiian Islands to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The region is experiencing increased ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, increased ocean acidity, lower ocean productivity, and more extreme weather. Many of these changes were intensified by the 2014-2016 El Niño. Policy and decision-makers need information on the nature of El Niño and other climate-related impacts to the region’s valuable resources—biological, cultural/social, and ecological. In assessing the impacts of the 2014-2016 El Niño it is noteworthy that:
- The 2014-2016 El Niño was one of the strongest events on record. However, several previous events have been defined as more intense in terms of their social impacts including the 1982-83, 1991-92, and 1997-98 El Niños.
- The U.S. Affiliated Pacific Islands (USAPI) experienced direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts across various sectors including public safety/disaster management, freshwater resources, public health, ecosystems, and biocultural resources.
- The 2014-2016 El Niño placed vulnerable groups of people at increased risk, especially individuals who were not necessarily prepared to cope with the consequences of extreme weather events.
The 2014-2016 El Niño underscored the fact that island communities are at the frontline of a changing climate. The event not only placed the lives and livelihood of millions of people at risk of, but also jeopardized the integrity of numerous cultures/societies.