Singapore: Driest January in 10 years

Judith Tan & Amresh Gunasingham, Straits Times 31 Jan 09;

SINGAPORE is experiencing an unusually dry spell and it looks like it may last another month.

This month has been the driest January in 10 years, without a decent shower across the island in a long while.

January is usually a wet month, with heavy showers that can last up to three days at a stretch.

So what happened?

Blame the unusual weather way up north. In Siberia, actually.

An annual accumulation of very cold dry air over Europe and Asia reaches its peak during winter, affecting weather patterns in the northern hemisphere.

That cold front occurred earlier than usual this time, said Professor Lim Hock, founding director of Temasek Laboratories at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Its effects have included the unusually cold weather in Hong Kong, the sudden cold snap in parts of Thailand earlier this month, and the strong north-easterly winds over the South China Sea all the way to Singapore, he said.

The dry weather Singapore has experienced in January is usually associated with February, he added.

Helping to explain, the Meteorological Services Division of the National Environment Agency said the north-east monsoon has wet and dry phases - rain from late November to January, followed by dry weather in February.

This year, however, a shift in wind patterns kept the rain away from Singapore.

The weatherman cautioned against leaping to conclusions that the unseasonal dry spell is a sign that global warming is at Singapore's shores.

There is a difference between climate change and natural variations in climate that occur from year to year, the experts agree.

Associate Professor Matthias Roth from the NUS' department of geography said that one dry January did not make a trend.

'We have to analyse the weather patterns over the next 10 years to see if these trends are still evident,' he said.

For the record, 2004 saw the wettest January in 10 years with 600.9 mm of rainfall, well above the long-term average of 244 mm.

This month, however, only 38.3 mm of rainfall was recorded.

It has resulted in slightly lower water levels at Singapore's reservoirs, but the PUB said yesterday that there was no cause for concern.