Last year, the South Pacific cyclone season was one of the worst on record. Eight tropical cyclones hit the region, five of which were severe, including Tropical Cyclone Winston - the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in Fiji.

This years' cyclone season, which runs from November to April, is expected to have five to seven tropical cyclones, with three to five predicted to reach Category 3* and one to two predicted to reach Category 4* or 5* status.

Andrew McKie, International and National Operations and Emergencies Manager at New Zealand Red Cross says the organisation will be closely monitoring climate systems in the Pacific over the next six months.

“We’ve been working throughout the Pacific Islands to develop disaster management programmes, and help build more resilient communities.”

Andrew says part of Red Cross’ disaster preparedness programmes involve developing an understanding of early warning forecasts among Pacific communities.

“We make an effort to describe forecasts as simply as possible, so everyone can understand and prepare in the case of an emergency. For some people hearing a warning in technical terms might not mean much, but if you talk about the impact of the winds or compare the winds to previous cyclones, it’s more relevant and easy to understand.

“We are also always working on building community resilience so at-risk areas know which pre-cyclone preparations can be made, like cutting down trees close to houses and nailing down roofs. Communities also identify strong buildings and structures that they can safely evacuate to during cyclones.”

These preparedness activities work, they save lives and we saw them in action following Cyclone Pam and Winston.

New Zealand Red Cross works in close partnership with its sister Red Cross societies across the Pacific, providing preparedness and response assistance.

Forecasts for the upcoming cyclone season have indicated that there is an elevated probability of tropical cyclone occurrences in Fiji and Tonga. The Cook Islands, New Caledonia, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Vanuatu, and Wallis & Futuna are predicted to experience normal 2016/17 cyclone seasons.

Cyclone season in the South Pacific officially runs from November 1, 2016, to April 30, 2017.

Further information can be found on Fiji Meteorological Service, Australian Board of Meteorology and the New Zealand Meteorological websites.