In October 2015, Météo France forecast a 90% cyclone risk over French Polynesia over the coming months, triggering, if not an actual storm, at least a wave of panic among the population and visiting sailors. In the end, while Fiji and the Cook Islands were hit hard, the French Polynesian archipelagos only experienced moderate depressions.
So what is the real risk in Polynesia?
With French Polynesia covering an area equal to that of Western Europe, Météo France’s forecast was equivalent to predicting a 90% chance of a major storm over Western Europe during the coming winter. A statistical assertion that wouldn’t have surprised many people, but whose limited impact is immediately obvious. In reality, what interests each and every one of us is the probability of a major storm happening precisely where we live.
With a statistic of around one ‘arrêté de catastrophe naturelle’ (natural disaster decree) per year for each commune on the French mainland coast, the risk of storms there seems even higher than in Polynesia… However, the violence and size of the most significant cyclonic phenomena must be taken into account for a proper comparison of risks.