Best of our wild blogs: 25 Feb 14

How does Parliament work? Find out at 1 Mar (Sat) Leafmonkey Workshop! from wild shores of singapore

Butterflies Galore! : Starry Bob
from Butterflies of Singapore

Glowing green at Tampines ECO Green park!
from The Green Volunteers

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Singapore in grip of record dry spell

Woo Sian Boon Today Online 25 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE — The Republic has experienced its longest ever dry spell of 27 days over these past two months, beating the previous record of 18 days set in 2008, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said.

The dry weather will probably persist into the first half of next month.

Before showers fell in some parts of the island on the weekend of Feb 8 and 9, less than 1mm of rain had fallen on any day between Jan 13 and Feb 8.

For the first three weeks of this month, the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) reported that about half its 64 rainfall stations islandwide recorded rainfall totals below 10mm, well below the long-term average rainfall total of 161mm for February.

Average wind speed recorded at the Changi climate station is also the highest for the month of February in more than 25 years, at an average of 12.8kmh, compared with the long-term average of 8.8kmh.

In an advisory posted on its website on Saturday, the NEA noted that there were localised showers, mainly in the western areas, on seven days this month. Jurong Island received the highest rainfall total of 87.8 mm. “However, many parts of Singapore remain dry, particularly in the south and east,” it added.

To maintain water levels in the reservoirs, national water agency PUB last week increased the amount of NEWater it injects into the reservoirs to 30 million gallons per day (mgd). The desalination and NEWater plants are also running at close to full capacity. NEWater and desalination can meet up to 30 per cent and 25 per cent of Singapore’s water needs, respectively.

PUB Director of 3P Network George Madhavan said: “While we continue to ensure that our water needs are met ... it is important for all of us to continue to practise good water-saving habits and avoid unnecessary consumption, especially during this dry spell.”

Some water-saving tips from the PUB include cutting shower times by one minute to save nine litres of water and watering plants in the early mornings and late evenings to minimise evaporation loss.

The dry phase of the Northeast Monsoon season, which Singapore and countries in the region are experiencing, had set in earlier this year, compared with previous years. Increased rainfall can be expected with the onset of the Inter-Monsoon in the second half of next month, the NEA said.

An MSS spokesperson said: “Dry spells are not uncommon during the dry phase of the Northeast Monsoon and occur in both El Nino and non-El Nino years. While climate change increases the risks of both wetter and drier extremes, the effects vary across the region. Further studies are needed to investigate these long-term effects in Singapore.”

The NEA yesterday said in an advisory that the dry weather conditions have caused “a number of vegetation fires in Singapore over the past weeks”. “These fires could possibly have contributed to the burning smell detected in some areas,” the agency added.

Schools that TODAY spoke to said they have been reminding students to drink more water, but that Physical Education (PE) lessons have been continuing as usual.

Montfort Junior School Principal Genevieve Chye said: “We have already been telling the children to remain hydrated, to have more water breaks.”

She added that teachers have also been told to ensure students have sufficient time to rest and take regular water breaks during periods of intense activities. Likewise, Crescent Girls’ School Principal Tan Chen Kee said the school has alerted teachers in charge of PE classes and Co-Curricular Activities to monitor students’ outdoor activities.

Meanwhile, fish farmers on both the East and West Johor Straits are still cautiously monitoring the situation after the mass fish deaths that occurred at the farms about two weeks ago. While the number of dead fish has gone down in the past week, San Lay Marine Culture owner Gary Zhang noted that the neap tide will be occurring this week. Factors such as the neap tide or hot weather can lead to a plankton bloom, which can drain seawater of oxygen.

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Northeasterly wind threatens to bring haze to Malaysia, Singapore

Devianti Faridz Channel NewsAsia 25 Feb 14;

JAKARTA: Indonesian weather forecasters in central Sumatra have predicted winds blowing in the northeast direction when the dry season officially returns to Southeast Asia.

It means, if preventive steps are not taken early on, haze could worsen and spread towards Malaysia and Singapore.

Around Riau in central Sumatra, more than 6,000 hectares of oil palm plantations, community-owned sago and rubber farms have been affected by fire.

Most of them are caused by illegal slash-and-burn operations to clear land.

Forecasters said seasonal rain is expected in the middle of next month, but the dry conditions are due again by the end of May.

And given the spate of fires already this year - they warn affected locals not to take drastic action.

Aristya Ardhitama, meteorologist and forecaster of Pekanbaru Meteorology Climatology and Geophysics Agency, said: "Sometimes when we issue a weather forecast notifying of reduced rainfall, the public takes advantage of the information and misuses it. They would then clear land when a dry spell occurs."

Large parts of Malaysia and Singapore were cloaked in haze from blazes in Sumatra last year, and environmental organisations said the Indonesian government must tackle the issue through legislative reform.

As a starting point, a bill on spatial planning, which has yet to be ratified in Parliament, would address the technical confusion of which government institution is responsible for the fires.

Muslim, a coordinator from Jikalahari, said: "For example, if it is a forest fire, authorities in the Agricultural Ministry cannot take action. Similarly when it occurs on plantations, the Forestry Ministry cannot step in. There's an SOP that gets in the way."

Given the weather conditions, deterrence is also a factor.

The Riau provincial administration has spoken directly with forestry and plantation companies to try and persuade them from practising slash-and-burn operations.

Local police have also spread leaflets to the public and spoken to village elders.

But very few individuals or companies are being punished due to lack of evidence.

Guntur Aryo Tejo, Riau Police spokesman, said: "The locations of the fires are remote and hard to access. In our investigations, we also face difficulties in collecting evidence and eyewitnesses' accounts."

Legal experts said different versions of maps and disputed lands between companies and the public also make it difficult to pinpoint who is ultimately responsible for starting the fires.

As the prospect of prolonged intense haze increases, the Home Ministry in the capital has instructed Riau's newly-inaugurated administration to take firm action.

But any decisions are still hamstrung by restrictive budgets, and issues with monitoring and law enforcement.

It means for now, the winds are bringing little change, just haze.

- CNA/de

Burning smell could be due to vegetation fires
Channel NewsAsia 24 Feb 14;

SINGAPORE: The National Environment Agency (NEA) says the current dry weather conditions have led to a number of vegetation fires in Singapore over the past few weeks.

And these fires could have contributed to the burning smell detected in some areas.

Meanwhile 18 hotspots were detected in Sumatra on Monday, and haze was visible in Riau province.

The NEA says prevailing north-easterly winds will keep the haze away from Singapore.

But it cautions that Singapore may experience the occasional slight haze due to the accumulation of particulate matter, especially in the morning.

As of 9pm, the 3-hour PSI stands at 36.

- CNA/ir

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Malaysia: Much-needed rain from mid-March

neville spykerman The Star 25 Feb 14;

PETALING JAYA: Inter-monsoon rains, which typically come after the middle of March, should bring Malaysians much-needed reprieve from the dry spell, said the Malaysian Meteorological Department.

“We should see a gradual increase in rainfall in the west coast of the peninsula from the third week of next month,” said department forecast director Muhammad Helmi Abdullah.

He said most states would have more showers or thunderstorms in the afternoon and early evenings.

Muhammad Helmi stressed that the current dry spell caused by lesser rainfall was nothing abnormal and followed the end of the north-east monsoon in February.

“It’s not a heat wave or drought.

He added that higher temperatures due to less cloud cover was also normal for this time of the year.

Muhammad Helmi said the slight haze was also due to the absence of rainfall.

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Indonesia: Haze from Riau will not disperse to Singapore and Malaysia

Antara 24 Feb 14;

Pekanbaru, Riau (ANTARA News) - The haze from the Riau Province in Sumatra will not disperse to Singapore and Malaysia, although a total of 1,234 hotspots have been detected in the province, according to the local Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics (BMKG).

On Monday, BMKG Pekanbarus analyst, Ardhitama stated here that the smoke arising from the hotspots in the region will only pollute the air around the province.

He explained that the winds blowing in the current dry season in Riau originated from the north and the east directions and were drifting towards south, which is in the opposite direction of Singapore and Malaysia.

This morning, the Terra and Aqua satellite detected 1,234 hotspots in Riau. This number is lesser than the 1,526 hotspots detected on June 23, 2013. During that time, the smoke arising from the forest fires was dispersed by the winds to Singapore and Malaysia.



Editor: Suryanto

Respiratory Illness and Flight Disruptions as Riau Haze Worsens
Jakarta Globe 24 Feb 14;

Jakarta. Some 20,000 people have reported respiratory illnesses in Riau as forest fires and the resulting haze continued to worsen on Monday, the local health agency reported.

“That is the data we’ve compiled from a number of districts and municipalities since late January to Sunday [Feb. 23],” Zainal Arifin, the head of the Riau Health Agency, said in Pekanbaru on Monday.

Last month, fewer than 5,000 people reported respiratory problems in Riau. Last week, however, the figure jumped to 15,000 before surpassing 20,000 on Sunday, the health authority reported.

“We’ve been focusing only on patients with respiratory problems because they are the focus of the Ministry of Health,” he told Indonesian news portal Bisnis Indonesia.

Zainal urged people in Riau to minimize their time outdoors, citing the poor air quality, especially in the town of Dumai and in the Pelalawan and Siak districts.

“Toddlers and people with asthma should avoid outdoor activities,” he said. “Workers should wear masks in anticipation of respiratory illnesses.”

Officials with Sultan Syarif Kasim II Airport in Pekanbaru said at least 12 flights were delayed, canceled or rerouted because the haze had reduced visibility in the province.

“Between 5 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. [on Monday], the visibility was only 500 meters,” airport manager Baekuni said on Monday. “The minimum visibility for safe flights is at least 1,000 meters.”

Affected routes included those to and from Malaysia and Singapore, as well as Bandung, Batam, Jakarta and Medan, on flights operated by Aviastar, Citilink, Garuda Indonesia, Lion Air and Tigerair Mandala.

A Citilink flight from Jakarta, which was supposed to land at Pekanbaru airport at 7:20 a.m., was diverted to Batam.

Forests in Riau began burning again earlier this month, with officials blaming local farmers for using the slash-and-burn method to clear land.

On Monday, the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said 1,398 hotspots were detected across Sumatra, with most of them concentrated in Riau.

Ahmad Agus Widodo, an analyst with the Pekanbaru office of the BMKG, said Bangka-Belitung and Lampung each reported one hotspot. South Sumatra reported two, Aceh five, Jambi 24, Riau Islands 43 and North Sumatra 85.

“Most hotspots were recorded in Riau province,” Ahmad told “[NASA's] Terra and Aqua satellites detected 1,234 fire hotspots across eight districts and municipalities in Riau.”

He added the figure marked a significant rise from the roughly 80 hotspots detected in Riau on Sunday.

Ahmad said that with the wind blowing toward the south, haze was spreading to the neighboring provinces of Jambi and West Sumatra.

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Costs of natural disasters in China surge to $69 billion

Kathy Chen and Stian Reklev PlanetArk 25 Feb 14;

Natural disasters including droughts, floods and earthquakes cost China 421 billion yuan ($69 bln) in 2013, official data showed on Monday, nearly double the total in the previous year.

China has always been prone to natural disasters but a changing climate is causing more extreme weather, which hits food production, threatens scarce water resources and damages energy security, according to the government.

Data released by the National Statistics Bureau showed flooding and mudslides cost China 188 billion yuan in 2013, 20 billion more than in the previous year.

Damage from droughts rose nearly fourfold to 90 billion yuan, while snowfall, freezes and ocean-related costs totalled more than 42 billion yuan.

Earthquakes, primarily one in Sichuan province in April that killed 186 people, added nearly 100 billion yuan to the costs.

"In recent years, China has seen a combination of floods and droughts simultaneously, with the rain belt moving north past the Yangtze River," Zhu Congwen, a researcher with the China Academy of Meteorological Sciences told Reuters, speaking in a personal capacity.

Northern China is seeing more droughts while typhoons are arriving earlier, wetlands drying up and sea levels rising, the government said in a report last year.

Some regions in China, such as the southern province of Yunnan, are in their third year of crippling droughts.

In August last year, an extended heatwave across six provinces in central China meant crops from 900,000 hectares (2.2 million acres) of farmland failed and 13 million people had no easy access to drinking water.

In the same month, record rain - in some areas the most heavy in more than 100 years - and storms killed more than 100 people and caused huge floods in the northeast and northwest.

Last year's disasters were not as bad as 2010, when record flooding killed more than 1,000 people and led to 15 million being forced from their homes.

But the trend is for an increasing impact from wild weather.

In December, the government said it was poorly prepared to tackle the impact of climate change and released a plan identifying main areas for improvement in a bid to limit damage.

Infrastructure, agriculture, water resources, coastal zones, forests and human health were listed as priorities.

China is the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, which scientists say cause climate change, but has pledged to cut its emissions to 40-45 percent per unit of gross domestic product by 2020 compared with 2005 levels.

(Editing by Robert Birsel)

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