Persistent rainy weather leaves some out in the cold

A father helping his child with a sweater as they walked down Orchard Road yesterday. The low temperatures have been attributed to a monsoon surge in the South China Sea. House of Seafood, which faces the sea in Punggol, has had to use machines to bl
House of Seafood, which faces the sea in Punggol, has had to use machines to blow warm air for the comfort of its diners in the alfresco area. The restaurant estimates that business has fallen by about 30 per cent since the wet season began in November.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
A father helping his child with a sweater as they walked down Orchard Road yesterday. The low temperatures have been attributed to a monsoon surge in the South China Sea. House of Seafood, which faces the sea in Punggol, has had to use machines to bl
A father helping his child with a sweater as they walked down Orchard Road yesterday. The low temperatures have been attributed to a monsoon surge in the South China Sea. ST PHOTO: JAMIE KOH

Eateries report poorer business while commuters gripe about delays, but some welcome escape from the heat

The thermostat has been turned up both indoors and outdoors at a seafood restaurant. Pre-schoolers have had to spend more time indoors, and some commuters complain about the traffic. Everyone in Singapore has had to deal with the rain and the cool weather.

The four machines typically used for cooling at the House of Seafood restaurant in Punggol have now been set to reverse, and are blowing warm air instead for the comfort of patrons in the alfresco area, said owner Francis Ng, 44. Only three of the restaurant's eight air-conditioners are switched on, set to 22 deg C instead of the usual 18.

"We have been here for about 3½ years, and this is the worst rainy season yet. The winds are stronger, toppling our chairs and blowing leaves indoors," said Mr Ng, who estimated that business has dropped by about 30 per cent since the start of the wet season in November.

At Casa Verde in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, a spokesman for Les Amis Group, which manages the restaurant, said sales have dropped by about 9 per cent this monsoon season. Bistro Du Vin, which has two outlets that mainly comprise indoor seating, also reported a decline. Few would want to venture out for meals in the rain, said its director Philippe Pau.

Following a number of days of intense rain, temperatures across parts of Singapore dipped to a low of 22.7 deg C on Wednesday, and the forecast from the National Environment Agency is for cooler days ahead. It said the temperature could dip below 22 deg C.

The low temperatures have been attributed to a monsoon surge in the South China Sea, a weather phenomenon that brings a rush of cool air and rain to Singapore.

Some, such as housewife Yasmin Razak, 49, are enjoying the cool weather: "The cold weather is nice for me to just relax and take a nap."

 
 
  • What are monsoon surges?

  • Uncharacteristic cold weather has descended upon Singapore of late, with temperatures in some parts of the island dipping to a low of 22.8 deg C on Wednesday.

    The National Environment Agency (NEA) has attributed this to a monsoon surge in the South China Sea and the surrounding region, and forecasts cooler days ahead.

    A monsoon surge refers to a weather phenomenon that brings cool air and thunderstorms into Singapore - like what is being experienced currently.

    Such surges are not uncommon here. The Republic typically experiences between two and four of them each year, mostly between the months of December and March, the NEA said on its website.

    Each event can last between one and five days, and brings with it widespread and continuous moderate to heavy rain.

    This is a period when the northern hemisphere experiences winter, marked by dry and cool air.

    Monsoon surges occur when a sudden increase in wind speed causes the cold air to surge southwards into the South China Sea.

    The southward movement is due to a pressure difference between the northern hemisphere, over which high pressure systems have developed, and the equatorial region and southern hemisphere, which have lower pressure at this time of the year.

    As the cold air moves south, it warms and gathers moisture, resulting in dense rain cloudsforming over the equatorial region where Singapore is located.

    Assistant Professor Winston Chow, a weather researcher from the National University of Singapore's geography department, said that cold temperatures are usually linked to rain, and that storms can result in exceptionally low temperatures independent of season.

    "However, the cool mean temperatures typically experienced in December and January are usually associated with monsoon surges," he added.

    Audrey Tan

But others, including accountant M. Kader, 28, said the rain has made it tough to plan activities.

Pre-school teacher Jily Koh, 31, said she has to come up with alternative programmes for the 14 pupils in her class if planned outdoor excursions are cancelled because of the rain.

But the wet weather has not affected attendance at the Little Swim School, whose coaches conduct swimming classes at various locations - including public pools, pools at condominiums and its own all-weather indoor pool in WestWay - for about 900 students aged between six months and 15 years each week.

"It is up to the parents and whether they are comfortable sending their children for swimming lessons. If they are not, we may make alternative arrangements for affected lessons to be conducted at another time or at the indoor heated facility," said Mr Ryan Quek, the school's general manager.

Commuters griped about the weather, reporting longer and more costly travelling options.

Mr Kader, for example, complained about fare surges on ride-hailing apps Uber and Grab. Music facilitator S. Ibrahim, 65, also said his travelling time has tripled due to traffic slowdowns.

People have been feeling under the weather too, with doctors reporting an uptick in the number of patients coming in with the common cold and flu.

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases physician at the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said that up to 80 per cent of his patients are now complaining of fever, headache and muscle aches, more than the usual number.

On how to ward off the cold, general practitioner Yik Keng Yeong said: "I would advise people to carry an umbrella with them, or to keep a fresh set of clothing in the office that they can change into if they get drenched. Taking vitamin C, eating wisely and resting adequately definitely helps."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 12, 2018, with the headline 'Persistent rainy weather leaves some out in the cold'. Print Edition | Subscribe