Wind gust in Friday's storm strongest in eight years

Wind speed hit 133.3kmh in Tengah; experts say more intense storms here may signal extreme weather events

Several chicken barns at egg farm Chew's Agriculture were flattened. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

The strongest wind gust in eight years was recorded during Friday's thunderstorm which battered several farms in Lim Chu Kang.

Wind speed hit a high of 133.3kmh at nearby Tengah at 3.50pm, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) yesterday.

"This is the strongest wind gust recorded on our islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010," it added. The highest-recorded wind gust is 144.4kmh, also in Tengah, on April 25, 1984.

The force of the winds on Friday caused some zinc panels to cut into tree branches. Several chicken barns at egg farm Chew's Agriculture were flattened.

These gusty winds over north-west Singapore, including Choa Chu Kang, were due to "strong downdrafts from thunderstorm clouds which reached heights of around 16km", said MSS.

The typical height of such clouds is 10 to 12km.

Experts said that Friday's storm was nothing out of the ordinary, although more intense storms in Singapore can be a harbinger of extreme weather events to come.

Assistant Professor Winston Chow of the National University of Singapore's (NUS) geography department said the storm was localised in nature and did not affect other parts of Singapore as much.

"Such thunderstorms are relatively normal occurrences in Singapore at this time of year."

Professor Benjamin Horton, associate chair of Asian School of the Environment (ASE) at Nanyang Technological University, said the heavy rain and cool weather were not surprising as they are part of the north-east monsoon season.

The storm occurred at the end of this monsoon season, which ushers in the beginning of spring with consistently warm temperatures, he added.

The rain across Singapore on Friday, which fell between 2.10pm and 5pm, was heaviest over western Singapore around Jurong and Choa Chu Kang, said the MSS.

It was caused by the convergence of winds over the Strait of Malacca and Singapore, coupled with favourable atmospheric conditions - namely, moisture and temperature - that led to thunderstorm clouds forming islandwide, it said.

Prof Horton said: "The strongest wind gust was 133.3kmh, but this extreme wind speed was felt only over a very short period of time - less than 20 seconds - and was followed by a lull. In contrast, tropical cyclones have hurricane-force winds that can be felt for days."

While no single event can prove climate change, a series of erratic weather patterns like frequent flash floods and more intense storms in Singapore can signal a bigger change, say experts.

Prof Chow said the storm was "one single event" and "to show climate change influence, we need to see a signal from a multitude of events". However, there is evidence of more extreme weather events in Singapore in recent years, which could likely be due to climate change, he added.

Dr Koh Poh Koon, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development, highlighted the broader issue of climate change after he visited the affected farms in Murai Farmway yesterday.

"The farmers shared with me that they now see the unpredictable and damaging effects of more extreme weather patterns on their livelihood due to climate change, and are determined to leverage better technology to mitigate against disruptions," he said.

  • Wind gusts over 80kmh can cause damage

  • The strongest wind gust recorded during Friday's storm was 133.3kmh.

    It was the strongest wind gust recorded by the islandwide network of wind sensors since 2010.

    Generally, wind gusts exceeding 80kmh can cause damage such as toppled trees.

    Wind speeds exceeding 100kmh can damage individual buildings and roofs. They can also disrupt or restrict road, rail, water and air traffic.

    They can also move securely anchored objects with a larger surface area, such as tents and scaffolding, as well as movable objects such as garden furniture.

    Rahimah Rashith

Ms Jennifer Walker, graduate student of ASE, noted that 2016 is the warmest year on record globally and in Singapore, which had an annual mean temperature of 28.4 deg C.

"As the temperatures warm, oceans are giving off more water vapour. In theory, extra water vapour in the atmosphere should pump heat into big storms, adding buoyancy that causes them to grow in size and power and produce the wind gust we saw on March 30," she said.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 01, 2018, with the headline Wind gust in Friday's storm strongest in eight years. Subscribe