Malaysia: Haze hits Sarawak

Mohd Roji Kawi New Straits Times 15 Aug 18;

KUCHING: At least five areas in Sarawak recorded moderate Air Pollution Index (API) readings this morning.

This follows the presence of haze in Kuching, Serian, Sibu, Mukah and Bintulu.

Hot weather that has persisted for more than a week is made worse with the peat fire in Daro, central Sarawak.

Cross border haze from Kalimantan is also affecting the state's air quality.

As of this morning, hundreds of hotspots have been detected in west Kalimantan near the Malaysia-Indonesia border, among them in Singkawang and Sambas.

Based on the latest API readings on the Department of Environment's website, Kuching recorded 56, Serian (51), Sibu (66), Mukah (75) and Bintulu (70).

Local wildfires under control, but Kalimantan hotspots a worry
stephen then The Star 15 Aug 18;

MIRI: Satellite images obtained by Sarawak Fire and Rescue Department are showing worsening wildfires in Kalimantan, resulting in smog being blown into the state.

Firemen in Sarawak are also battling several wildfires in Mukah, Bintulu and Bintangor.

Some 10 acres of wildfires have been burning since Tuesday (Aug 14) evening in Kg Assykirin in Bintulu.

In Mukah, peat fires in Daro are being extinguished, while in Bintangor, wildfires have been contained.

Sarawak Bomba in its latest updates said firemen were on the ground to contain local wildfires but the main worry now was the transboundary haze from the dozens of hotspots raging in west Kalimantan.

A change in wind direction is believed to have blown the haze across the border into Sarawak.

Dozens of hotspot clusters, appearing as red dots on satellite images, have been detected in western Kalimantan

A hotspot signifies a fire that is at least one sq km in size, thus making it big enough to be detected by satellite hovering 100km above earth.

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Indonesia promises haze-free Asian Games

Marguerite Afra Sapiie The Jakarta Post 14 Aug 18;

The government is determined to carry out all necessary measures to prevent forest and land fires from spreading on the island of Sumatra, as the Asia Games are set to kick off on Aug. 18 in Jakarta and Palembang, South Sumatra, at the peak of the dry season.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Wiranto held a meeting on Tuesday with relevant officials, discussing anticipatory measures to address the potential increase in hot spots.

"Learning from our experience [...] and with solid coordination [among stakeholders] as well as proper procedures in both prevention and mitigation, all regions are prepared to mitigate potential forest fires," Wiranto said on Tuesday.

"We need to work hard to ensure that South Sumatra will be haze-free. Weather forecasts say that the peak of the dry season will happen during the Asian Games," he added.

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) detected 169 hot spots in Sumatra Island on Tuesday with 47 hot spots in South Sumatra alone. Riau recorded an increase in hot spots to 90 from 65 in the previous day while there were 11 hot spots in Jambi and 55 hot spots in Bangka Belitung province.

The Environment and Forestry Ministry's director general of climate change, Ruandha Agung Sugadirman, said a coordinated team comprising relevant officials, including police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel, routinely carried out patrols in areas prone to forest fires.

Sixteen helicopters have been on standby across South Sumatra and can be deployed for water bombing at any time when forest fires are detected. Another 10 helicopters are also on standby in Riau, Ruandha said.

The government has also used 51 tons of salt to intensify cloud-seeding operations to help stimulate rainfall since May, he said, adding that rain had fallen in the province from Monday evening to Tuesday morning.

"As long as the land and peatlands are wet, fires will not occur," Ruandha said. (rin)

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Indonesia: Bosf to release 10 orangutans to Bukit Baka national park

Antara 15 Aug 18;

Palangka Raya, C. Kalimantan, (ANTARA News) - The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOSF) of Nyaru Menteng will release 10 orangutans to Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park (TNBBBR).

"The 10 orangutans are three male and seven female aged between 13 to 16 years old. They will take a 10 to 12-hour tour via land and river route from Nyaru Menteng to the selected points in the national park," CEO of BOSF Nyaru Menteng Jamartin Sihite said here on Tuesday.

The 10 orangutans will add the orangutan population in the national park to 102, since the first release of rehabilitated orangutans two years ago in August 2016.

"August has a special meaning for us. When Indonesia celebrates its independence day, we at the same time also celebrate Orangutan Day. So we want to dedicate this month as `the month of orangutan freedom`" he continued.

Head of Central Kalimantan Natural Resource Conservation Agency (BKSDA) Adib Gunawan said, conservation would need the involvement of all stakeholders.

Hence, he said, the agency will continue to cooperate with TNBBBR, BOSF and other related institutions to release orangutans.

He called on the public to take an active role in natural resource conservation.

"Orangutan for instance, the only great apes in Asia, has played an important role in its habitat. It is the main reason why we have to protect our forest," he remarked.

Reporting by Rendhik Andika
Editing by Sri Haryati , A Abdussalam

Editor: Fardah Assegaf

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Extreme temperatures 'especially likely for next four years'

Cyclical natural phenomena that affect planet’s climate will amplify effect of manmade global warming, scientists warn
Jonathan Watts The Guardian 14 Aug 18;

The world is likely to see more extreme temperatures in the coming four years as natural warming reinforces manmade climate change, according to a new global forecasting system.

Following a summer of heatwaves and forest fires in the northern hemisphere, the study in the journal Nature Communications suggests there will be little respite for the planet until at least 2022, and possibly not even then.

Rising greenhouse gas emissions are steadily adding to the upward pressure on temperatures, but humans do not feel the change as a straight line because the effects are diminished or amplified by phases of natural variation.

From 1998 to 2010, global temperatures were in a “hiatus” as natural cooling (from ocean circulation and weather systems) offset anthropogenic global warming. But the planet has now entered almost the opposite phase, when natural trends are boosting man-made effects.

“Everything seems to be adding up,” said the author of the paper, Florian Sévellec of the French National Centre for Scientific Research. “There is a high possibility that we will be at the peak of a warm phase for the next couple of years.”

The scientist built his forecasting system by statistical “hind-casting”. This crunches the data from previous climate models to measure which combination was most effective in predicting past temperature trends.

Based on this analysis, Sévellec says the statistical upward nudge from natural variation this year is twice as great of that of long-term global warming. Next year, it is likely to be three times higher.

He cautions that this should not be seen as a prediction that Europe will definitely have more heatwaves, the US more forest fires, South Africa more drought or the Arctic more ice melt. The likelihood of these events will increase, but his model is on a broad global scale. It does not predict which part of the world will experience warming or in which season.

But his data clearly suggests that water in the oceans will warm faster than air above land, which could raise the risks of floods, hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones.

“Natural variability is a wriggle around the freight train that is global warming,” he says. “On a human scale, it is what we feel. What we don’t always feel is global warming. As a scientist, this is frightening because we don’t consider it enough. All we can do it give people information and let them make up their own mind.”

He said his model should not be seen as the final word, but be taken alongside other forecasting systems, including those that look in more detail at what is happening on a regional level.

Dr Sam Dean, chief climate scientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, said the paper indicated mankind will have to rely less on “fortuitously cool years” from natural processes. Instead of the cooling La Niñas experienced in the first decade of the century, he said there have been more warming El Niños since 2014 and this trend looks set to continue.

“While we can’t be sure exactly how things will play out, at the moment the odds are higher for hot years,” he said.

Other scientists praised the paper but concurred on the need for wider analysis. “The findings suggest it’s more likely we’ll get warmer years than expected in the next few years. But their method is purely statistical, so it’s important to see what climate models predict based on everything we know about the atmosphere and the oceans. Those are more expensive to run but also use more climate physics and observational information,” said Prof Gabi Hegerl of Edinburgh University.

Professor James Renwick of Victoria University of Wellington said the new forecasting system was clever, but its value will only be clear in the future. The broader trend, however, was clear.

“If the warming trend caused by greenhouse gas emissions continues, years like 2018 will be the norm in the 2040s, and would be classed as cold by the end of the century,” he wrote.

Next few years 'may be exceptionally warm'
BBC 14 Aug 18;

The next few years could be "anomalously warm", according to a new study.

Researchers have developed a mathematical model to predict how average global surface air temperatures will vary over the next few years.

The results suggest that the period from 2018 to 2022 could see an increased likelihood of extreme temperatures.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

The warming caused by emissions of greenhouse gases like CO2 is not increasing at a perfectly steady rate.

In the early years of the 21st Century, scientists pointed to a hiatus in warming. But several analyses show that the five warmest years on record all have taken place since 2010.

These variations from year-to-year do not affect the long-term trend in warming temperatures.

Now, a new method for trying to predict global temperatures suggests the next few years will be hotter than expected.

Rather than using traditional climate simulation techniques, Florian Sévellec, from the CNRS in Brest, France, and Sybren S Drijfhout, from the University of Southampton, developed a statistical method to search through simulations of climatic conditions in the 20th and 21st Century and look for situations that are comparable to the present day.

Future possibilities

The team then used these climatic "analogues" to deduce future possibilities.

In particular, the anomalous warmth predicted over the next few years is due to a low probability of intense cold climatic events.

Once the algorithm is "learned" (a process which takes a few minutes), predictions are obtained in a few hundredths of a second on a laptop. In comparison, supercomputers require a week using traditional simulation methods.

Gabi Hegerl, professor of climate system science at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved with the study, said: "The authors have tried to predict whether global climate variability will make the next years warmer or cooler overall than the mean warming trend. They have skilfully used worldwide climate model data for previous years to calculate probabilities for the next few years.

"The findings suggest it's more likely we'll get warmer years than expected in the next few years.

"But their method is purely statistical, so it's important to see what climate models predict based on everything we know about the atmosphere and the oceans. Those are more expensive to run but also use more climate physics and observational information.

She added: "These new predictions are not geared up at the moment to predict regional trends such as the hot summer this year; so they may predict how likely it is to have a global record warm year, but not a regional record summer like we've had in the UK."

For the moment, the method only yields an overall average, but scientists now would like to adapt it to make regional predictions and, in addition to temperatures, estimate rain and drought trends.

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Best of our wild blogs: 14 Aug 18

The other side of Pulau Jong
wild shores of singapore

Feral dogs, river dogs, a croc (five actually), 35 redshanks & 2 common sandpipers @ SBWR - 12Aug2018

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Living City: Last fishermen on Singapore’s east coast

Straits Times 14 Aug 18;

SINGAPORE - Jurong and Senoko are well-known ports of call for Singapore's fish trade.

But East Coast Park, too, is home to a small wharf that caters to customers with a taste for fresh fish.

Located along the beach near carpark B1, it is the park's last boat storage facility.

From the 1970s till 2007, the National Parks Board (NParks) offered four such facilities at subsidised rates to fishermen who had been affected by resettlement.

Today, the only one remaining - about the size of half a football field - houses 35 NParks-registered boats owned by fishermen. Only boat owners who fish for a living may apply to use the facility. Their vessels must also have a valid licence issued by the Maritime Port Authority or Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority.

"Most of the time, customers come here and collect their orders at the beach," said Mr Lim Ah Ping, 65, a semi-retired fisherman.

Most customers are regulars who have bought fish from them for many years.

Fellow fisherman Kee Seck Heng, 56, said: "My customers first chanced upon this place when they came to East Coast Park to exercise."

In this episode of Living City, The Straits Times takes you to the last community of fishermen at Singapore's east coast.

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Malaysia: Dead baby elephant found floating in Kinabatangan river


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s wildlife scene took another hit when a baby elephant was found dead and another injured by snare trap in two separate incidents, yesterday evening.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Christina Liew in revealing this today, said the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) had sent their teams to the ground upon receiving the information.

Cause of death for the young elephant, believed to be around two years old, has yet to be ascertained but no physical injuries were evident, added SWD director Augustine Tuuga during a press conference at the sidelines of the state assembly sitting, here.

“For the first case, a report was received of a male elephant suffering injury on the front leg due to a snare trap near Taliwas, Lahad Datu," Augustine said.

He informed that the information was received late in the the evening yesterday and the department's veterinary team was not able to make it there last night.

“But this morning we despatched them and now they should be there to treat the injury.

“We also received information yesterday of a young elephant found floating at Kinabatangan river in Sukau (by a tour boat) and the body has been secured by the riverbank," he said.

A team was sent to conduct a post-mortem, Augustine said, adding that preliminary checks found no visible physical injuries.

Meanwhile, Liew who is Deputy Chief Minister said they will wait for the post-mortem to learn the cause of death and a statement would be issued once there was more information.

On a separate matter during the press conference, Liew said they were confident of meeting the set target of 3.85 million total arrivals into Sabah this year.

This is supported by more charter flights as well as direct international flights coming to Kota Kinabalu, she added.

As of June this year, arrivals were recorded at 1.891 million which was an increase of 5.3 percent compared to the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Deputy Chief Minister cum State Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Jaujan Sambakong in a separate press conference, said his ministry was currently embarking on a roadshow statewide to address imbalanced development.

He said efforts to streamline development planning would ensure tourism hotspots like Ranau and Kundasang have efficient facilities like organised residential areas and markets.

On another question, he said the level of cleanliness would also be addressed.

“Besides restructuring the development plannings, we want to improve the image of local authorities,” he added.

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Malaysia: Sabah halts all poultry exports following bird flu detection in Tuaran

stephanie lee The Star 13 Aug 18;

KOTA KINABALU: All poultry exports from Sabah have automatically been stopped, following detection of bird flu in chickens in Tuaran on Aug 3.

Sabah Agriculture and Food Industries minister Junz Wong said this was to prevent the spread of the virus outside of the contaminated area.

However, he did not specify how many stocks or which countries are affected by the export halt.

“For Brunei, they themselves requested to stop the import of our poultry following this incident,” Wong said during a press conference on Monday (Aug 13).

Meanwhile, villagers whose poultry have been culled following the detection of bird flu in Tuaran will be compensated.

Wong said villagers reared chicken mostly for their own consumption, and the culling has caused them losses.

"So, we will be compensating the affected villagers accordingly," he said.

Meanwhile, he said poultry farmers would not be compensated as such because they knew the risks when venturing into the industry.

Almost 30,000 chicken and poultry have been destroyed after the detection of the virus.

Wong also said that the bird flu virus is believed to have originated from imported chickens, which were used in illegal cock-fighting activities.

On other matters, Sabah will have a standard operating procedure (SOP) to streamline the processing of bird's nests for export to China.

“We want things done directly from Sabah and not have to go through Peninsular Malaysia,” he said, adding this move is expected to benefit locals.

Wong said those interested to venture into the bird's nests business can go to his ministry to get their application forms.

The full SOP will be revealed in a month’s time.

Bird flu outbreak: Sabah points to poultry smuggling as possible contributing factor
Olivia Miwil New Straits Times 14 Aug 18;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has always been vigilant in screening the entry of food products into the state, said its Agriculture and Food Industries Minister Junz Wong.

This comes following detection of bird flu in chickens in Tuaran on Aug 3.

“We have been stringent in allowing poultry products and fruits into the state to prevent the spread of diseases.

“However, it cannot be denied that there are people who smuggled items in. During operations, we even seized roosters meant for cockfighting events," he said, after the launch a seminar on tropical fruits, themed “The Next Golden Crop for Sabah” here today.

The seminar was organised by Sabah Agriculture Department and Society of Agriculture Scientists.

Meanwhile, Wong added that he did not discount the possibility that smuggled poultry could be one of the contributing factors that led to the outbreak of the bird flu virus in Tuaran recently.

“We are still investigating (the source of the infection and the result of the samples taken from the infected chickens are) not out yet,” he said.

As for poultry exports, Wong said Brunei has so far halted all imports of poultry and fertilisers from the state.

Despite that, he assured that the situation was still under control and there has been no report of human transmission.

On the event, Wong said the state government was optimistic in turning tropical fruits into the main exports based on its experience of turning cocoa and oil palm as Sabah's golden crops.

In 2016, he said the global market value of fruits were worth US$10 billion, in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) it was US$1.8 billion, with Malaysia only contributing US$74.6 million.

“We have to give our full commitment in working on allocating lands, workforce, time and entrepreneurship to make this happen.

“I was told about 3.6 acres out of 5.2 acres of the agricultural land in Sabah has been identified for tropical fruits.

“Supply of fruits are adequate to meet domestic demand but we are looking into potential export of starfruit, pineapple, rambutan, durian, pamelo, papaya, mangosteen, jackfruit among other.” Wong added.

Also present was Sabah Agriculture Department director Idrus Shafie.

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Indonesia: Riding whale sharks dangerous for both humans, fish - WWF Indonesia

The Jakarta Post 13 Aug 18;

Conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature Indonesia (WWF Indonesia) has lambasted a group of divers and a local tour operator after a video went viral showing divers riding a whale shark, a protected species, while also warning that the careless act is dangerous for both humans and the fish.

The 22-second clip, in which a group of divers were seen touching and riding the whale shark, was taken in Cendrawasih Bay National Park in Papua.

Cassandra Tania, marine species officer at the WWF Indonesia, said the act was dangerous for both humans and the whale shark, as the harsh skin of the largest fish species could harm the divers.

“What's more, its large size means it could hurt humans if the shark hits them,” she said over the weekend as reported by

The video, which went viral on social media, was first uploaded by the frontman of legendary rock band Slank, Akhadi “Kaka” Wira Satriaji, on his personal Twitter account @fishGOD on Thursday. In the post, Kaka tagged Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Minister Susi Pudjiastuti and Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar.

Cassandra added that riding and swimming near the whale sharks could also potentially lead to the sharks’ death, with the species listed as endangered and protected by a 2013 regulation issued by the Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry.

Moreover, she also regretted that the tour operator did not inform the divers on how to properly interact with the whale sharks.

Cendrawasih Bay National Park is the largest marine national park in the archipelago where visitors can have unique encounters with the giant fish that regularly visit the area. (ris/rin)

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Palm oil: A new threat to Africa's monkeys and apes?

Helen Briggs BBC News 14 Aug 18;

Endangered monkeys and apes will almost certainly face new risks if Africa becomes a big player in the palm oil industry.

That is the message of a study looking at how large-scale expansion of the oil crop in Africa might affect the continent's rich diversity of wildlife.

Most areas suitable for growing palm oil are key habitats for primates, according to researchers.

They say consumers can help by choosing sustainably-grown palm oil.

Ultimately, this may mean paying more for food, cosmetics and cleaning products that contain the oil, or limiting their use.

"If we are concerned about the environment, we have to pay for it," said Serge Wich, professor of primate biology at Liverpool John Moores University, and leader of the study.

"In the products that we buy, the cost to the environment has to be incorporated."

What is palm oil?

Palm oil comes from the oil palm tree, which is native to West Africa. However, most palm oil is currently grown in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Environmentalists say the region's forests have paid the price, with native trees cut down to make way for palm trees.

Oil palm expansion is a major driver of deforestation, which in turn threatens wildlife, such as the critically endangered orangutan of Borneo.

However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says replacing palm oil with other oil crops is not a solution, as these crops have lower yields and would take up more land.

They say to reduce the impact on biodiversity, palm oil needs to be produced more sustainably by avoiding deforestation and by reducing the use of palm oil in products other than food.

Palm oil is found in many supermarket products, including soaps and cosmetics. A huge amount is now also being used in biofuel.

Where is further expansion likely?
Many companies growing palm oil are looking to expand into Africa.

This is a worry for conservationists, as potential plantation sites are in areas of rich biodiversity.

They are particularly worried about Africa's primates. Nearly 200 primate species are found in Africa, many of which are already under threat.

Habitat destruction is one of the main reasons why all great apes are at the edge of extinction. The introduction of palm oil plantations to Africa is expected to accelerate the habitat loss.

The latest research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The study found that while oil palm cultivation represents an important source of income for many tropical countries, there are few opportunities for compromise by growing palm oil in areas that are of low importance for primate conservation.

"We found that such areas of compromise are very rare throughout the continent (0.13 million hectares), and that large-scale expansion of oil palm cultivation in Africa will have unavoidable, negative effects on primates," said the research team.

To put that figure into context, 53 million hectares of land will be needed by 2050 to grow palm oil in order to meet global demand.

Dr Giovanni Strona of the European Commission Joint Research Centre in Ispra, Italy, worked on the study.

He said primates are already in steep decline in Africa due to habitat loss and poaching.

"The main message is that, due to the large overlap between areas that are suitable to grow oil palm and areas that host many vulnerable primates, it will be extremely challenging to reconcile oil palm expansion and African primate conservation," he explained.

What can be done to tackle the problem?
The IUCN says effective policies are needed to stop the clearing of native tropical forests for new oil palm plantations.

In existing oil palm plantations, companies should manage their land to reduce impacts on biodiversity.

Consumers can also help by choosing products that use sustainable palm oil and cutting down on the amount of palm oil they buy.

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Best of our wild blogs: 13 Aug 18

Sea fan garden at Changi
wild shores of singapore

Cyrene with Burrowing giant clams!
wild shores of singapore

NParks and the Curious Case of 818K
Wan's Ubin Journal

National Day Durian Walk by Cicada Tree Eco-Place at MacRitchie Forest
Love our MacRitchie Forest

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Malaysia: It’s going to be hot until October

razak ahmad The Star 13 Aug 18;

PETALING JAYA: It is scorching hot in many parts of the country and will remain so until the inter-monsoon season arrives in Octo­ber.

Kapit in Sarawak was the hottest spot in the country at 37°C, according to a check on the Malaysian Meteorological Department (Met­Ma­l­ay­sia) website.

The next hottest locations were Kuala Krai in Kelantan; Sibu and Sri Aman (Sarawak); Temerloh (Pahang); and Mersing (Johor), which all recorded 35°C.

The hottest state capitals were Ipoh (Perak), Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Kuching (Sarawak) and Kuantan (Pahang), which were all at 34°C.

Meanwhile, Perak, Pahang, Kel­antan and Sabah were the warmest states with an average highest temperature of 34°C.

According to MetMalaysia, the average highest temperatures from yesterday until Saturday will remain at 34°C in all four states except Sabah, where the average highest temperature is forecast to drop to 33°C on Friday and Saturday.

The hot weather has affected many people in several states.

Temperatures in many parts of the country have been rising due to the current South-West monsoon, which started in the third week of May.

According to the country’s official definition of a heatwave, temperatures between 35-37°C for three days straight are classified as “alert level” or Category 1.

Category 2 or “heatwave level” is defined as temperatures over 37°C for three days straight, while Cate­gory 3 or “emergency level” is when the temperature soars above 40°C for three days in a row.

The classifications were defined at a 2016 national technical meeting on tackling El Niño and dry weather.

On July 28, Sik (Kedah), Kuala Krai and Beluran (Sabah) recorded maximum temperatures between 35°C and 37°C for more than three days, putting them on a heatwave alert.

In a recent statement, Met­Malaysia director-general Alui Bahari said the country’s atmosphere is generally drier due to reduced convection during the southwest monsoon.

Convection is when warm air rises and produces an upward current in the atmosphere, creating wind, clouds or other weather.

“As such, the country will experience more days without rain in this period compared to others,” said Alui.

However, the arrival of the inter-monsoon period in October is expected to bring cooler weather.

Throughout the inter-monsoon season, late afternoon and early evening thunderstorms and heavy rains are forecast in the west coast Peninsular states and western Sabah, along with western and central Sarawak, according to Met­Malaysia’s forecast.

In addition, most parts of Pen­insular Malaysia are expected to receive higher than normal rainfall at this time.

The inter-monsoon will be followed by the northeast monsoon, which starts in November and ends in March.

The North-East monsoon brings heavy rains, especially to the east coast of the peninsula and western Sarawak, which often leads to floods in some of the affected areas.

A major heatwave recently hit Europe, Japan and some other parts of the world.

The phenomenon reportedly killed 50 in Canada and 80 in Japan, led to droughts in Germany and caused temperatures to spike to record levels in Britain, Algeria, Morocco and Oman.

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