Vulnerability

Despite experiencing less frequent disasters compared to other Pacific Island Countries (PICs), Samoa experiences a high degree of economic and social shock during disaster years: over 40 percent of the population of Samoa is affected and Samoa’s economic losses have averaged 46 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP). In the capital city of Apia, a cyclone with a 100-year return period, or with a 50 percent chance of occurring within the current generation, could likely inflict damage equivalent to 60 percent of GDP. Samoa is at risk to tropical cyclones, tsunamis, droughts, and floods.

This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. It allows for a quick assessment of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.

Natural Hazard Statistics

The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.

Metadata

Climate change is now recognized to have a significant impact on disaster management efforts and pose a significant threat to the efforts to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable populations. The demands of disaster risk management are such that concise, clear, and reliable information is crucial. The information presented here offers insight into the frequency, impact and occurrence of natural hazards.

Natural Hazard / Development Nexus

Understanding natural hazard occurrence as well as historical climate conditions, in relation to development contexts, is critical to understanding a country’s historical vulnerability. This tool allows the visualization of different natural hazards or historical climate conditions with socio-economic and development datasets. Select the Development Context and either a Natural Hazard or Climate Condition and overlay horizontally by sliding the toggle left or right to gain a broader sense of historically vulnerable areas.


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Data presented under Historical Climate Conditions are reanalysis products derived from ERA5-Land data. ERA5-Land is a global land-surface dataset at 9 km resolution, consistent with atmospheric data from the ERA5 reanalysis from 1950 onward. Climate reanalyses combine past observations with models to generate consistent time series of multiple climate variables. They provide a comprehensive description of the observed climate as it has evolved during recent decades, on 3D grids at sub-daily intervals. 

This data has been collected, aggregated and processed by the Climate Resilience Cluster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.

Key Vulnerabilities
  • Recent studies and tracking of cyclones in and around the Samoa region has found that there has been an increase in the frequency of tropical depressions, gale wind forces, and tropical cyclones during the cyclone season from December to February.
  • Samoa’s southwestern location bordering the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’ increases its risk to tsunamis. This area of high tectonic activity has had 115 tsunamis since 1900, 22 of which led to significant damage.
  • It is estimated that coastal flooding will potentially affect between 60,000 and 90,000 Pacific Island people, or 0.3% to 0.5% of the projected population, by 2050. Therefore, any factors that impact coastal areas, such as extreme weather events, coastal erosion, and sea-level rise, would exact a very high human and economic toll.
  • Samoa has experienced forest fires in dry native forests and widespread water shortages from the El Niño related drought/dry periods of 1982-83, 1997-98, 2001-02 and 2002-03.

More information on natural hazards can be found at ThinkHazard.

  • A current lack of effective or efficient water storage infrastructure endangers agricultural production and water quality and quantity for human consumption in Samoa. The likelihood of increased sedimentation and salt water intrusion under future possible sea level rise and extended drought conditions could cripple existing water infrastructure.
  • Increased cyclone intensity under possibly future climate change remains a matter of debate among the climate science community, however likely trends of drier and warmer climate and an increase in sea surface temperatures these disasters are likely to increase.
  • Future climate is expected include more droughts in the southern Pacific, more rain and consequent floods in the equatorial Pacific, and cyclones are expected to increase in intensity by about 5–20 percent. Risk management of natural hazards (RMNH) such as planting mangroves to stabilize land against erosion.