A long, wet and particularly severe monsoon season may lie ahead, experts say
This summer saw record breaking temperatures around the country, with March being a particularly sweltering month. The above-average temperatures and longer than usual delay of the rains arriving was attributed to the phenomenon of El Nino, the naturally occurring weather pattern that results in the warming of the surface of a large swath of the Pacific Ocean. 2015 marked the beginning of the most recent El Nino which finally ended last month. The two to five year phenomena was unfortunately known as ‘super El Nino’ this past year, being the most severe in almost two decades.
Meteorologists in Myanmar and elsewhere in Asia are predicting a double weather whammy: El Nino’s sister, La Nina, is likely to bring an exceptionally long, cold and wet monsoon season.
Wilhemina Pelegrina, a Greenpeace campaigner on agriculture, said La Nina could be “devastating” for the entire continent of Asia, bringing possible “flooding and landslides which can impact on food production.”
MONSOONS COULD STRETCH UNTIL WINTER MONTHS
Veteran meteorologist Tun Lwin told The Irrawaddy in mid-June that there is a 70 percent likelihood of La Nina’s effects being felt in September and that rainfall may exceed that of 2015. Other analysts forecast the effects of La Nina lasting up until February 2017. If the predictions are correct, the unusual weather patterns pose a significant risk to the people of Myanmar, many of whom are accustomed to less flash flooding and rain at the typical end of the monsoon season.
In July and August last year, hundreds of lives were lost and millions of acres of farmland were destroyed by torrential rains and landslides across most parts of the country as a result of Cyclone Komen. The previous government was criticised for delays in resettling affected communities – particularly those in remote Chin State who experienced dangerous landslides.
The new National League for Democracy government has reportedly already sought advice from experts on how to best mitigate the impact of La Nina.
POPULAR TRAVEL DESTINATIONS ARE AT RISK THIS YEAR
Monsoon winds in the Bay of Bengal are already stronger than usual and satellite images from NASA indicate that flooding in Bago, Yangon and Ayewaddy regions is highly likely. Yangon is particularly prone to flash flooding, which can result in increased traffic congestion, seasonal illness and damage to infrastructure.
Rakhine State is considered the most prone to natural disasters with the monsoon season being particularly severe. Flooding in recent days has already displaced more than 12,000 people in 41 villages. Child rights organisation Plan International Myanmar has assisted families to evacuate to higher ground and deployed emergency response teams and relief supplies.
“During and after a disaster, children are particularly vulnerable, and can experience stress and have reduced access to food, water and shelter. We are committed to ensuring children are safe and protected and their families are supported during this time,” said the organisation’s Business Development Manager, Enrico Rampazzo, on 7 July.
Globally, 2011 to 2015 was the hottest five-year period on record. According to Columbia University’s Earth Institute, “Most scientists agree that the warming trend is due to greenhouse gases humans have put into the atmosphere.” Unusually severe weather patterns, such as those brought on La Nina, are also regarded as being brought on, at least in part, by the effects of climate change.
Although Myanmar’s global emissions are comparatively low, it is considered one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. Awareness about its impacts remains low. La Nina should be a wake-up call that everyone should be well-prepared and informed before making travel plans.