Best of our wild blogs: 29 Sep 13

smooth-coated otter @ Ubin-OBS 28Sep2013
from sgbeachbum

Life History of the Large Snow Flat
from Butterflies of Singapore

Oriental Magpie-robin anting
from Bird Ecology Study Group

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HDB says no immediate plans to develop Tampines Eco Green

Lip Kwok Wai and Olivia Siong Channel NewsAsia 27 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: The Housing and Development Board (HDB) has said the Tampines Eco Green park at Tampines North will remain untouched for now.

This is despite it being zoned as a residential area under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's 2008 Masterplan.

Bound by Tampines Avenue 12 and Tampines North with an area of 36.5 hectares, the Eco Green park takes up 15 per cent of the land at Tampines North.

Responding to queries from MediaCorp, the HDB said there are no immediate development plans for the area, adding that it intends to keep it as a park for as long as possible.

The HDB unveiled its plans for the new housing area in August, but property analysts said the HDB's current plans to build 21,000 homes on the rest of the land should be sufficient to meet existing demand.

Director of Chris International, Chris Koh, explained: "If you don't put aside green areas, or keep eco in that estate, what's going to happen (is) it's just going to look overly built-up.

“If it's all built-up, there's nothing more you can build. So possibly they're thinking of putting a few green areas aside, so if ever one day we need to redevelop, we need to, for example expand, build more, at least you have these sites you can consider."

- CNA/gn

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Singapore to study local impact of global climate change findings

Kimberly Spykerman Channel NewsAsia 28 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE: Significant changes in rainfall patterns and increased rising of sea levels by the year 2100 were among the findings of a global climate science study.

The findings were released by the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Stockholm on Friday.

The Singapore government said it will contextualise the global findings and study their impact on the country so that resilience plans can continue to be reviewed and adjusted.

The changes revealed in the findings suggest that Singapore could see more intense and frequent bouts of heavy rainfall as a result.

In Singapore, the number of days each year with heavy rainfall of more than 70mm in an hour has already shown a spike.

It rose from five days in 1980 to 10 days in 2012.

The annual maximum rainfall intensity in an hour also increases from 80mm in 1980 to 107mm in 2012.

The findings also imply that increased temperatures, which Singapore experiences only occasionally now, could become the norm in the future.

Aggressive climate change could affect how Singaporeans carry out their daily activities and the way future infrastructure is planned.

The findings from the international study will be used to provide updated projections of aspects like temperature, rainfall and sea level changes in Singapore's second National Climate Change study.

This means the relevant government agencies will be well-prepared to cope with the impact of such changes in the future.

The second study will start in November this year.

The Centre for Climate Research Singapore will work with the UK Met Office to project climate parameters in greater detail to help the government better understand the local impact of climate change.

Dr Chris Gordon, director of the Centre for Climate Research Singapore at the Meteorological Service Singapore, said: "Heavy rainfall on the extreme end leads to flooding. This is the main impact of concern and so those projections need to be taken into account in terms of such things as the drainage infrastructure...

"These are already being taken into account in Singapore in the planning that's going on. But these updated projections will feed into that process to ensure it's robust against those future changes."

Separately, the second phase of the first National Climate Change study concluded this year.

This phase looked into the impact of climate change on issues such as public health, biodiversity, the energy consumption of buildings and urban temperature profile.

The findings have been disseminated to the relevant agencies to use in their resilience plans, which include enhancing the stability and connectivity of existing green areas and putting in place plans to better understand the effects of urbanisation together with climate change.

- CNA/ir

More intense and frequent rainfall expected
Neo Chai Chin Today Online 28 Sep 13;

SINGAPORE - Singapore and South-east Asia can expect more intense and frequent rainfall events in future, and extreme temperatures that the Republic currently experiences occasionally could become the norm.

Speaking to the media this afternoon (Sept 28), a day after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its fifth Assessment Report (AR5) Summary for Policymakers in Stockholm, the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS) gave an overview of what the report’s findings mean for Singapore.

The South-east Asian region could see an increase in average temperature of 3 to 4°C by the period of 2081 to 2100 under the most severe climate change scenario, and a rise of 0.5 to 1°C under the least severe scenario, said CCRS director Dr Chris Gordon.

A 3 °C rise in average temperature over Singapore would mean:

- Daily maximum temperatures of 34 °C that now occur 10 per cent of the time, will become the average daily maximum

- A 25 per cent increase in rainfall rate for daily rainfall events every 20 years, from 294mm to 367mm

Already, Singapore’s rate of warming in the past 62 years was 0.26 °C per decade – more than double the global trend of 0.12 °C per decade. This could be due to regional variations in man-made global warming, long-term climate variability in the region and urbanisation.

Rainfall intensity in an hour has also increased from 80mm to 107mm between 1980 and last year, although it is currently not scientifically possible to attribute this to global warming.

Another IPCC finding of particular relevance to Singapore is the enhanced estimates of sea level rise, said Dr Gordon. The AR5 projects a rise of 0.26m to 0.82m by the period of 2081 to 2100, depending on the level of greenhouse gas emissions. But specific projections for Singapore must take into account regional variations and local land movements, he said.

Research is being done by the Earth Observatory of Singapore to estimate the amount and rate of downward motion of land around the island that may result from a large earthquake in West Sumatra, which the observatory expects to take place in the coming decades.

Land subsidence will increase the rate of sea level rise – following the 2004 Aceh-Andaman earthquake, parts of Thailand have been moving downward by up to 1cm yearly, according to Assistant Professor Emma Hill of the Earth Observatory.

The latest AR5 models will be used in Singapore’s Second National Climate Change Study, which began last November. Its first phase, consisting of climate projections, is expected to complete by end-2014. Together with the United Kingdom Meteorological Office, the CCRS will provide localised and updated projections of temperature, rain, wind and sea level changes.

The projections will then be used by infrastructure agencies for climate impact assessments, expected to end by 2015 or 2016, said Ms Wong Chin Ling, director-general of the Meteorological Service Singapore.

Dr Gordon said that IPCC findings, while not a surprise to climate scientists, provide stronger projections about intensity of rainfall for wet regions in the tropics and should give greater confidence to policymakers about what the effects of climate change actually are. The projections should aid planning in areas such as drainage going forward, he said.

NParks to work on enhancing resilience of eco-systems here: National Climate Change Study

Past fragmentation of Singapore’s forests make them vulnerable to future long-term changes such as increased likelihood or duration of drought, and higher average temperatures. This was among some of the findings of the recently-completed First National Climate Change Study, which were revealed today by the authorities. The National Parks Board plans to work with other agencies and the community to safeguard existing species, connect fragmented patches and enhance resilience of ecosystems.

In the areas of urban temperature profile and energy consumption, factors of greenery, building height and building density were found to strongly influence temperature at both the macro and micro levels. Climate change was found to have some impact on respiratory disease, although it is not the main factor. The National Environment Agency and Health Ministry are studying the relationship between climatic factors such as temperature and rainfall, and public health risks such as dengue fever. They will look into forecasting the risk of disease transmission under different scenarios.

Singapore could see hotter, wetter days next century
Feng Zengkun Straits Times 29 Sep 13;

Singapore should brace itself for hotter and wetter days in the next century.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday held its own briefing on what a long-anticipated global climate change study by a United Nations panel - which was released on Friday - means for Singapore.

According to NEA's preliminary findings, if the earth heats up by 2100 as expected, very heavy storms in Singapore will "very likely" become even more frequent and intense.

A 3 deg C rise in Singapore's temperature, for instance, means that a very heavy storm, which has a 1 per cent chance of happening in any given year, will be five times as likely to occur.

Heavy storms have already become more frequent here in the last few decades, according to the Centre for Climate Research Singapore (CCRS).

In 1980, there were only five days with rainfall of more than 70mm in an hour. That increased to 10 days last year.

The highest amount of rain which fell in an hour also increased from 80mm in 1980 to 107mm over the same period.

Hotter "temperatures that Singapore encounters occasionally now could become the norm in the future", the NEA added in a press statement.

Singapore has been heating up at a rate of 0.26 deg C every decade between 1951 and last year. This is twice the global trend of a 0.12 deg C rise every 10 years in the same period.

The difference may be partly due to urbanisation here, according to the NEA.

Singapore's average daily maximum temperature between 1972 and last year was 31 deg C, while the hottest recorded was 36 deg C in 1998.

The global study also suggested that both the extreme weather patterns related to the El Nino phenomenon could become more intense.

This may lead to drier weather in Indonesia and worsen the annual haze in Singapore, said CCRS director Chris Gordon, although he added that more detailed studies were needed.

The NEA said it would use the global study's findings in its Second National Climate Change Study, expected to be completed by next year. This will provide local projections for temperature, rainfall, wind and sea levels up to 2100.

The findings will be handed over to the relevant agencies for their own studies on how Singapore can cope with the climate changes. These are expected to be finished by 2016.

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Indonesia expected to sign haze agreement this year

Indra Harsaputra The Jakarta Post 28 Sep 13;

Indonesia is expected to sign the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution by the end of the year, thus strengthening its commitment in dealing with the haze issue in the Southeast Asian region.

Arif Yuwono, the deputy environment minister for environmental damage control and climate change, said the draft agreement was currently being discussed by the House of Representatives and was expected to be approved by the government by the end of the year at the latest.

“Indonesia’s willingness to sign the agreement is not attributable to pressure by Malaysia and Singapore, but the spirit as an ASEAN member country,” he told The Jakarta Post over the phone.

Separately, after attending the 14th Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Environment and the 9th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution and related meetings in Surabaya, East Java, recently, Environment Minister Balthasar Kambuaya said the ministry had discussed the haze issue with participating countries, including Malaysia and Singapore.

“Regarding haze, we must seek a joint solution to overcome it so as to prevent it from recurring. We must raise awareness because the drought will last until October,” Balthasar told journalists.

He said Indonesia was currently formulating a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Singapore and Malaysia on joint haze supervision.

“The agreement with Singapore and Malaysia is in the form of joint research and particular matters concerning joint haze management. Malaysia also has the same interest,” said Balthasar.

As was known earlier, the Malaysian and Singaporean governments had urged Indonesia to immediately sign the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, a border treaty on haze management, which was signed on June 10, 2002. The treaty was put into effect on Nov 25, 2003, but of the 10 ASEAN member countries, Indonesia is the only country which has yet to ratify the treaty.

The call to sign the agreement emerges following the haze in Riau that also blanketed Singapore and Malaysia in June and July this year. Singapore claimed that the recent haze was the worst in 16 years. The issue had even sparked diplomatic war of words between Indonesia and the two neighboring countries.

Land and forest fires have been a major problem in Riau for years as smallholders and plantation firms allow slash-and-burn farming methods. Former National Police detectives chief Comr. Gen. (ret.) Ito Sumardi, who led the Riau Police between 2005 and 2006, revealed that a number of agricultural firms usually ordered their contractors to clear their land.

“Indonesia is still able to overcome the haze without assistance from Singapore. Haze is a joint issue so don’t just blame Indonesia,” said Balthasar.

He added the Indonesian government was serious in taking action against eight companies which intentionally set fire to concession areas and sparked forest and peatland fires in Riau and caused Singapore to be shrouded by thick haze.

“One of the eight companies is involved in palm oil and pulp activities. We will impose sanctions, including revoking its business permit,” said Balthasar.

Earlier in Riau, Balthasar disclosed that one of the eight companies was also indicated to come from Malaysia.

“We are further conducting the investigation. Those involved in the investigation are from the prosecutor’s office, police, forestry and agriculture offices,” he added.

Balthasar said his office was also currently examining 24 suspects.

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Coral alert: destruction of reefs 'accelerating' with half destroyed over past 30 years

The eco-system has been around for tens of millions of years and we are wiping it out within a hundred, says IPCC scientist
Tom Bawden The Independent 23 Sep 13;

The rapid decline of the world's coral reefs appears to be accelerating, threatening to destroy huge swathes of marine life unless dramatic action is swiftly taken, a leading ocean scientist has warned.

About half of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed over the past 30 years, as climate change warms the sea and rising carbon emissions make it more acidic.

But the trend now looks to be accelerating, said Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, the scientist in charge of the ocean chapter of the forthcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

"Our oceans are in an unprecedented state of decline due to pollution, over-fishing and climate change. The state of the reefs is very poor and it is continuing to deteriorate," said Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, of the University of Queensland.

"This is an eco-system that has been around for tens of millions of years and we are wiping it out within a hundred. It's quite incredible."

In addition to working on the IPCC report, Professor Hoegh-Guldberg is leading by far the most comprehensive assessment of the state of the world's coral reefs, the Catlin Seaview Survey (CSS). Its initial findings demonstrate that the reefs are getting "increasingly hammered" from all sides, he said.

"The coral reefs' decline seems to be accelerating rather than decelerating, but I would add the caviat that the ultimate evidence will come in about five years time," he added. That is because the CSS will be the first to provide a detailed worldwide picture of coral reefs, many of which have never been documented before. Only by comparing the result of this survey with the situation as it develops in the coming years can the true picture of the decline be known.

The CSS builds up a picture of the state of the world's coral reefs using a specially designed tablet-operated underwater camera that travels along sections of the reef collecting thousands of images using continuous high-resolution, 360-degree panoramic imagery.

The survey has just posted its results online so far - based on expeditions to the Great Barrier Reef, the Caribbean and Bermuda - so that it can be used by policy makers and scientists around the world.

Coral reefs - made from calcium carbonate secreted by tiny corals - are among the most biodiverse, or species-rich, habitats in the world. They support thousands of species, including tropical fish, whales, dolphins, turtles, birds, sea snakes and sea grass.

Because they are so rich in life, they are regarded as the "canary in the coal mine" for the ocean for the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification, in the same way that levels of Arctic ice are seen as the best barometer on land.

"Coral reefs are incredibly important to hundreds of millions of people who really on fishing for their livelihoods and for tourism - and for coastal protection, because the waves crash down on the reefs several hundred metres from the shore, protecting the coast and the food it provides," Prof Hoegh-Guldberg said.

The UN estimates that coral reefs directly support the livelihoods of nearly 300 million people and have an "economic value" of up to £107bn in research that attempts to put a price tag on the "natural services" it provides, such as being a nursery for fish and protecting the coastline.

The chapter on Oceans that Prof Hoegh-Guldbert is overseeing, jointly with one other scientist, will appear in the second part of the forthcoming IPCC report, which will be published in March. The first part will be published on Friday.

Although the outlook for coral reefs is dire, he said the battle has not yet been lost. For some reason, many of the reefs in Bermuda "are looking fairly good", he said, and this could provide lessons for how to protect reefs more generally.

Furthermore, reefs can recover relatively quickly if the pressure on them decreases. A significant global switch to renewable energy - while far from likely - would give the reefs a new lease of life.

"By the middle of the century, global temperatures could stabilise and ocean acidification could reverse - it's actually doable," Professor Hoegh-Guldberg said.

"If we go in the direction we are now, we are lost with no chance of recovery. But if we listen to what the IPCC report tells us, and take that advice, and get on and form the partnerships to do it, we can turn the situation around. But if we wait another 10 years, we'll be too far gone."

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