Expect haze this year - and earlier too: Experts

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has been slowly inching upwards over the past couple of days. Readings since Sunday show that it has been hovering in the 60s and 70s range. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has been slowly inching upwards over the past couple of days. Readings since Sunday show that it has been hovering in the 60s and 70s range. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

The haze may be upon Singapore yet again - and earlier than usual.

The Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) has been slowly inching upwards over the past couple of days. Readings since Sunday show that it has been hovering in the 60s and 70s range. As of 9pm last night, the 24-hour PSI stood at 62 to 67 - within the moderate range - while the three-hour reading was 58.

This rise is coupled with an impending dry phase of the north-east monsoon - with total rainfall for this month and the next expected to fall below average.

While the National Environment Agency had said this year's dry spell was not likely to be as bad as last year's drought, experts told The Straits Times last week the haze could come earlier this year. This will happen if the dry weather in Malaysia triggers wildfires, with winds carrying the smoke over to the Republic.

Haze in Singapore usually occurs from May to October, caused by winds bringing in smoke from the forest fires in Sumatra, Indonesia.

After a wet November and December which led to flash floods here, the total rainfall this month could be up to 60 per cent below the long-term average of 242.4mm for January.

From Jan 1 to 21, the total average rainfall recorded at rainfall stations islandwide was 83.7mm.

Singapore is affected by severe smoke haze periodically as a result of forest fires in neighbouring countries. This is due to the practice of open burning to clear land for agricultural uses. The situation is worsened during dry seasons or if there are changes in wind direction and low rainfall.

According to the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, a few hot spots were observed in Peninsular Malaysia and Kalimantan as of yesterday.

ameltan@sph.com.sg