Pagasa warns: El Niño most intense in 17 yrs by October
The country faces a severe drought starting October when the prevailing El Niño steps up to its most intense stage, expected to surpass the episode 17 years ago, the state weather bureau warned.
From a weak intensity in March to a moderate one in June, El Niño now appears headed to equal or even surpass the severity of the 1997-1998 episode that was described as the “El Niño of the 20th century.”
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) said El Niño’s strength would intensify by October.
“There are indications this will be as strong as the 1997 El Niño, maybe even stronger,” said Pagasa climatologist Anthony Lucero.
“We will have below normal rainfall conditions,” Lucero said.
He said El Niño would peak in November this year to January next year and last until May next year.
Pagasa said a multiagency response was needed to prepare strategies to mitigate the adverse impact of El Niño.
El Niño (“The Little Boy” in Spanish) is a recurring unusual warning of sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, bringing drought in some regions of the Pacific and heavy rains in others.
In the Philippines, El Niño is characterized by reduced rainfall resulting in drought.
El Niño could also result in the erratic behavior of tropical storms. It interacts with the monsoon cycle, raising water vapor levels in the air and causing cyclones to behave more unpredictably.
During the 1997-1998 El Niño, the country suffered water and food shortages as 70 percent of the country experienced a severe drought.
P8.46B damage to agri
Reports said damage to agriculture reached P8.46 billion as nearly 74,000 hectares of agricultural land in 18 provinces were affected by the dry spell.
Citing UN data, the Department of Agriculture said the country’s rice and corn production during the first half of 1998 went down 27 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
Back then, some 900,000 people in Central Visayas were affected by the prolonged drought. In Mindanao, 74 people died and more than 450,000 agricultural families faced severe food insecurity because of the drought, according to the United Nations.
El Niño typically lasts nine to 12 months, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa).
Its opposite is La Niña (“The Little Girl”), which is characterized by unusually cold sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, resulting in extreme climate conditions, such as devastating rains and winds.
Noaa said that both El Niño and La Niña tended to develop during March to June, reach peak intensity from December to April and weaken from May to July. However, prolonged El Niño episodes have lasted two years, sometimes for as long as three to four years, it said.
The last time a developing El Niño overlapped with the southwest monsoon in the Philippines was in September 2009, when Tropical Storm “Ondoy” wreaked havoc in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.
In 1982-1983, El Niño left P700-million worth of damage to rice and corn, and in 1992-1993, agricultural losses reached more than P4 billion.
The El Niño events on record occurred in 1986 to 1987, 1987 to 1988, 1991 to 1992, 1994 to 1995, 2002 to 2003, 2004 to 2005, 2006 to 2007 and 2009 to 2010. With a report from Inquirer Research
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