2019 poised to be really hot year

Singapore has shifted to a new higher temperature, and it will continue to rise, says Dr Muhammad Eeqmal Hassim, senior research scientist at the Centre for Climate Research Singapore.
Singapore has shifted to a new higher temperature, and it will continue to rise, says Dr Muhammad Eeqmal Hassim, senior research scientist at the Centre for Climate Research Singapore.ST PHOTO: CHANG AI-LIEN

Looming possibility of El Nino could send mercury soaring to new heights, say experts

Brace yourself for a sizzling 2019.

With the temperature-boosting El Nino weather phenomenon a looming possibility, this year could see temperatures soaring to new heights, say Singapore's climate experts. "We're noting a rising temperature trend in the Pacific, especially under the ocean, so we're poised for El Nino," Dr Muhammad Eeqmal Hassim, senior research scientist at the Centre for Climate Research Singapore, told The Straits Times.

"The signs are there. We just need a kick start, such as a westerly wind burst, for it to happen."

Warm is the new norm, according to the centre under the Meteorological Service Singapore, which released its annual climate assessment report today.

In fact, in a worrying sign of things to come, the country's coolest month this decade - at 26.9 deg C - was the same temperature as the hottest month in the 1970s.

Consistently above-average temperatures, though punctuated by a brief cool spell, made last year the eighth warmest year on record here. The mean annual temperature was 27.9 deg C - 0.2 deg C warmer than the year before.

This despite the fact that 2018 was, in fact, hit by La Nina - which is known for bringing with it cooler temperatures - albeit a weak episode.

El Nino is associated with hotter and drier weather in the region, and an El Nino event, if any, usually develops from the middle of the year.

The top five warmest years on record here, Dr Muhammad pointed out, had all been strong El Nino years, with No. 6 and No. 7 on the list experiencing a weak El Nino effect.

 
 
 
 

So for last year to climb to eighth warmest on record, despite the absence of the El Nino effect, was significant.

In a sign of the long-term ongoing warming in the country due to climate change and urbanisation, Singapore's top 10 warmest years have all occurred in the past 25 years, and the last 10 years (2009 to 2018) were the warmest ever.

"We've shifted to a new higher temperature, and it will continue to rise," said Dr Muhammad.

When and whether it stabilises is hard to predict, but each individual has a part to play in tipping the balance, he emphasised.

If nothing is done, Singapore and the world will experience more weather extremes, including flooding, drought and heatwaves, he warned.

On its end, the Government is throwing its weight behind efforts to protect the country and provide for its survival - in the areas of water, making the most of waste, food and climate-change research.

But individuals have a significant part to play too, said Dr Muhammad.

This could be as simple as changing from halogen light bulbs to LED ones, for instance, which use much less electricity, or opting for public transport instead of driving, and setting the air-conditioner to 25 to 26 deg C rather than 19 deg C.

Pointing to Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, 16, who went on a solo climate strike last August and inspired more than one million students around the globe to skip school last week in a similar protest, he said: "It's encouraging how one person with conviction can galvanise action around the world.

 

"If everybody gets in on the act, the collective effort will make the difference."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2019, with the headline '2019 poised to be really hot year'. Print Edition | Subscribe