Daily haze updates to start on Monday

El Nino brings higher risk of fires; more hot spots found in Sumatra

Daily haze forecasts and health advisories will be issued from Monday as the start of the south-west monsoon season brings the possibility of smoke-filled skies.

The traditional dry season for the southern Asean region is likely to be worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon this year - leading to a higher fire and haze risk - so the National Environment Agency will provide updates through its Twitter and Facebook pages, website and microsite www.haze.gov.sg.

The agency said yesterday that certain areas of the region have experienced drier weather over the past few days, with isolated hot spots visible in parts of Sumatra and Kalimantan in Indonesia. Earlier this week, Indonesian national news agency Antara said satellites had detected 227 hot spots across Sumatra on Sunday, the highest number in three months.

The south-west monsoon is expected to strengthen and persist in the coming weeks, and the winds could bring with them smoke from Indonesia - caused when farmers burn land illegally to clear it for agricultural use.

The months of June to September are traditionally drier for countries across the southern Asean region, comprising Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and the southern parts of the Philippines and Thailand.

But they could be drier than usual this year, with some scientists now warning that there is a 90 per cent chance of the El Nino weather phenomenon - linked to drier weather - occurring before the end of the year.

One silver lining is that the European Centre for Medium- range Weather Forecasts - considered one of the world's most reliable prediction centres - said this week that the effect of the El Nino is likely to be moderate. It added that the situation will be clearer "in the next month or two".

Meteorological Service Singapore has predicted a "weak to moderate" El Nino, with rainfall here from June to September expected to be 10 per cent to 40 per cent lower than the long-term averages.

Average daily temperatures for those months are expected to be 1 deg C higher than the long-term averages of 27.2 deg C to 27.7 deg C.

People in Singapore have already felt the heat, with the highest recorded temperatures from Monday to Wednesday ranging from 35 deg C to 36.2 deg C.

On Wednesday, Indonesia's Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare Agung Laksono called on Singapore's Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan. He stressed Indonesia's commitment to resolve the recurrent problem and welcomed Singapore's offers of assistance.

The Republic has offered to provide, among other things, high-resolution satellite images and hot spot coordinates, Singapore Civil Defence Force teams, and even an aircraft for cloud-seeding.

Dr Balakrishnan said on Facebook that it was "a very good meeting", adding: "We agreed both governments need to work closely to safeguard the health and welfare of citizens from both Indonesia and Singapore."



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