Best of our wild blogs: 15 Apr 14

Latest Green Jobs in Singapore [31 Mar - 6 Apr 2014]
from Green Business Singapore

Pulau Ubin with the Drone!
from wild shores of singapore

Head Plumes of the Javan Pond-heron
from Bird Ecology Study Group

Green Drinks: Networking Tuesday
from Green Drinks Singapore

Job: Laboratory Officer (with field work and teaching support; deadline 15 May 2014) from The Biodiversity crew @ NUS

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Sunny? Cloudy? Raining? How fascinating!

Han Fook Kwang The Straits Times AsiaOne 15 Apr 14;

What is it about the weather in Singapore that makes it so fascinating?

If you get a funny look when asking this question, it's probably also sunny or cloudy or raining.

Or all three depending on which part of the day it is.

So, the weather here is so predictable you wish we had the four seasons?

That's a view borne out of ignorance.

It's time to change this attitude because not only is the weather as interesting as anywhere else in the world, knowing it is also the first step to understanding its importance to our future.

But the reality is that even though there has been much discussion in recent years about climate change and the dire consequences that might follow, interest in the weather has been as dry as the recent drought.

Ask anyone here and chances are, many can't tell the difference between a Sumatran squall and a north-east monsoon surge.

Or between cumulonimbus and altostratus. (Hint: Think clouds.)

As for climate change, it is too riddled with the confusing science of carbon emissions and ozone reactions.

This lack of interest and the accompanying ignorance are a shame because weather and climate are such a large part of our lives and so immediately felt, it's like not knowing your own body.

And it is of such a wondrous nature - alive and changing, noisy and colourful - too complex to know completely, yet so fundamental to our lives that only a fool would not want to know it.

Our farming and hunting forefathers knew better, or they would have died starving.

City dwellers think they can do without the knowledge but they will regret this in time.

So, what's so interesting about the Singapore weather?

Did you know that the monsoon rains we get in November and December originate from what's happening in Siberia?

It starts to get really cold there and, as the entire Asian continent cools during the northern winter period, a high pressure region develops.

As a result, the air moves towards the warmer seas in the south, such as the South China Sea, picking up moisture along the way and dumping it onto our part of the world.

There are other monsoon rains that develop in a similar way in west Africa and the south-west United States but none are as spectacular as what we get here.

That's because these winds move from the largest land mass in the world (the Euro-Asia continent) to the largest body of water (the Indo-Pacific ocean).

The rain they bring is the reason large swathes of humanity were able to settle in Asia, and so began modern civilisation.

Singapore is smack in the middle of this watery deluge.

It is also in the middle of two bands of high pressure regions, 30 degrees north and south of the equator, that give rise to what are often called the trade winds because they were used by sailing ships in the past to cross the big oceans, opening up trade routes between countries.

How can we not know about the mysterious winds when they bring not only the rain but also the ships, and Singapore's reason for existence?

If you want to know more, read an excellent publication produced by the Meteorological Service Singapore, The Weather And Climate Of Singapore, from which I obtained much of the information for this piece.

Indeed, the weather has made the news more often these days than before, the recent record-breaking drought being the latest example.

With large parts of the country parched dry, the grass brown and half-dead, it looked and felt to me like the country was dying.

Is this how the future might look if the climate change doomsayers are right?

With shiny skyscrapers standing tall among the urban infrastructure but amid death all around, among the trees and plants, and the animals that live off the vegetation?

At the height of the drought in February, it wasn't hard to imagine this death scene occurring in a future devastated by climate change.

According to the Met Service, temperatures here have risen an average of 0.25 deg C a decade, consistent with global trends.

For most people, this may be too small a change to detect, but beware the effects that chaos theory predicts.

This hypothesis is about how a system can become hugely sensitive to small - even infinitesimally tiny - changes in the initial condition, resulting in very large consequences.

The Earth's atmosphere is such a chaotic system.

In fact, it was a meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, who discovered this theory, leading him to make the well-known pronouncement that "the flap of a butterfly's wing can cause a tornado over Texas".

Can a similarly inconsequential change in some far-flung location result in a drought here many times more severe than the last?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report two weeks ago warning that the consequences of rising temperatures from carbon emissions were even more serious than predicted in 2007 when the last IPCC study was done.

Ice caps are melting faster than anticipated, sea levels rising, and heatwaves and heavy rain are intensifying with the prospect of water shortages, flooding and crop failures.

Some critics have labelled the report alarmist, questioning the science behind it.

For ordinary people like you and me, it is not possible to decide the merits of the various arguments.

What we can and should do is to become more interested in the weather and understand how it relates to the larger system.

And we have to start locally, with our own weather.

Even if it is always sunny, cloudy or raining.

It is too life-threatening a subject to be left to the experts.

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Severe haze last year could have influenced climate change survey results: DPM Teo

Channel NewsAsia 14 Apr 14;

SINGAPORE: The severe transboundary haze which blanketed Singapore in June last year could have influenced the results of a recent survey on climate change, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in Parliament on Monday.

The survey, commissioned by the National Climate Change Secretariat (NCCS), showed that only 39 per cent of respondents felt taking action on climate change was their responsibility.

This compared to more than 55 per cent who felt that way in a previous survey.

Responding to a question by Nominated Member of Parliament, Associate Professor Eugene Tan, on the reason for the decline, Mr Teo said half the respondents cited "clearing of forests" as a key contributor to climate change.

He said as there is not much of a role an individual could play in preventing transboundary haze, more respondents could have been looking to the government instead to take action.

On the other hand, Mr Teo said the survey also showed over 80 per cent of respondents said they adopt climate-friendly behaviour.

This includes turning off electrical appliances, when they are not in use, at the mains and taking public transport.

He said this is an improvement from the previous survey, in which 70 per cent indicated they were doing so.

To reach out to Singaporeans on climate change issues, Mr Teo said the NCCS is doing so through community events, schools and social media.

A climate change exhibition will also be launched at the Science Centre by the end of the year.

- CNA/ms

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Singapore: 36 hours of surprises with Ben O’Donoghue and Tom Williams

Perth Now 15 Apr 14;

THEY’VE got no itinerary, just 36 hours to kill and an appetite for local cuisine mixed with a thirst for new experiences.

Welcome to Singapore with TV host Tom Williams and chef Ben O’Donoghue.

Tom Williams and Ben O’Donoghue at Pulau Ubin - where they discovered the Black Diamond mountain bike trail wasn’t really the easy option.

On their way home from a surf trip in the Maldives, the mates took a high-octane Singapore stopover, filming the Channel 7 special Tom & Ben’s Singapore Sling.

O’Donoghue tells Escape that the idea was to look outside the box and try to encourage other Aussies to make the most of their stopover time by revealing some of the less well-known attractions Singapore has to offer.

“I was really surprised at how easy it was to get around,” he says.

“You think of it as a concrete jungle, but there are places you can go to get out of the city.”

One such place was Pulau Ubin, home of the Ketam Mountain Bike Park. Hitting the Black Diamond trail - after being assured it was not the most difficult - was an eye-opener, says O’Donoghue. “It wasn’t easy at all!”

At Sentosa Island, the pair marvelled at the planet’s largest window to the ocean at the S.E.A. Aquarium, and Williams went diving with sharks at the Marine Life Park.

Back in the city centre, the Gardens by the Bay is a case of “botanical gardens on steroids” according to O’Donoghue, with its night-time light shows a highlight.

But as a chef, he acknowledges his main motivation during the visit was the food.

And he found delicious surprises at every corner.

“You can generally tell what good (at street stalls) - it’s always a good idea to jump on the longest queue,” he says.

O’Donoghue discovered a diverse, funky range of coffee shops, cafes and noodle bars, delicious rotis and curries in the Arab Quarter, and in Chinatown, a surprising beer emporium among the hawker stalls.

And he admits he’ll be drawing inspiration from the dishes he enjoyed at his own restaurant (Billy Kart Kitchen, at Annerley in Brisbane). Expect to see a fresh take on prawns cooked in salted duck eggs making an appearance soon.

But perhaps Williams and O’Donoghue most surprising Singapore discovery was this: You can surf in Singapore - on an “epic” wave, no less.

Sure, it’s not the ocean, but even O’Donoghue - a keen surfer and host of Surfing the Menu - admits being surprised by the Flowrider at Wave House Sentosa.

“It’s so much harder than it looks,” he says.

And his final words of advice to others with a stopover in the city?

“Engage with the locals. Taxi drivers are a great source of information - and if it’s food that you want, they have always got a hot tip for what to eat,” he says.

“It’s the Garden City, so get out and appreciate it.”

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Malaysia: Twenty tonnes of giant clams seized from Vietnamese fishermen

stephanie lee The Star 14 Feb 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Dozens of giant clams weighing nearly 20 tonnes were seized from nine Vietnamese fishermen at the Mengalum Island near here on Monday.

The giant seized clams valued at about RM500, 000, is an endangered and protected marine species in Sabah were found on a boat operated by a Sabah and Vietnamese joint venture company.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hamza Taib said nine of the crew on board at that time of the arrest in the ongoing Ops Cantas Laut by marine police at about 10.30am on April 10.

He said although this was the first arrest and seizure of such nature, marine police believe the culprits have been harvesting giant clams illegally for quite some time.

“Police would also be investigating the boat company here, while the nine Vietnamese will be referred to the Land and Survey Department for further actions,” he said.

Hamza explained that the case was first referred to the Fisheries Department but was told that it was under the Land and Survey Department’s jurisdiction as ‘they were taken from the seabed, which is considered part of the land’.

Meanwhile, he said the shells, which could be used for cosmetic and decorative purposes were protected items and cannot be harvested or sold without a license from the relevant authorities.

“Many people might not know about this,” he said, adding that giant clams were very rare, as out of the less then 10 species in the world, seven were known to be found in Sabah.

Action will be taken against Vietnamese fishermen over giant clams
The Star 17 Apr 14;

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s Lands and Surveys Department will be taking action against nine Vietnamese fishermen caught harvesting 20 tonnes of dead rare giant clams from the seabed around Pulau Mengalum, about 55km from here.

Apparently, the state Fisheries Department could not take action against the fishermen as the clams were dead.

The fishermen were arrested last Thursday by Sabah Marine Police about one nautical mile from Pulau Mengalum.

The haul of clams on the fishing trawler is estimated to be worth about RM500,000.

The fishermen, who work for a Sabah-Vietnam joint venture company based here, were initially handed to the state Fisheries Department, which then passed the case to the Lands and Surveys Department.

Sabah Lands and Surveys Department director Datuk Osman Jamal said investigations were being carried out under Section 168 of the Land Ordinance as the fishermen did not have a permit to extract clams from the area.

Also being investigated was whether the fishermen, aged between 20 and 40, were collecting the clams without the knowledge of their company.

It remains a puzzle why the Fisheries Department declined to take action in the first place.

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Malaysia: 'Dry winds are coming'


DAMS TO BE HIT: Five months of vastly reduced rainfall likely from May

KUALA LUMPUR: MALAYSIANS may have to brace for another round of dry spell for a five-month period beginning from the middle of next month due to the southwest monsoon season.

Even though temperatures are forecast to reach a comfortable 32 to 33ยบ Celsius during this period, a lack of rain and higher evaporation rate will see drier weather affecting west coast states in the peninsula.

Meteorological Department (MMD) central forecast office director, Muhammad Helmi Abdullah said the weather change was due to dry winds coming from Indonesia.

This would create a high evaporation rate, which makes it easier for bodies of water to be absorbed into the atmosphere.

"The west coast states in the peninsula including Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Malacca and Johor will be most affected by this dry season.

"There will be an average rainfall of 100 to 200 millimetres throughout the country during this five-month period. This is lower as compared with the 200 to 300 millimetres of rain the country has been experiencing since March 29," Helmi told the New Straits Times.

The previous dry spell had caused water levels at 20 dams and 21 rivers nationwide to dip between 0.3m and 1m since Feb 14 this year. This led to water rationing in Selangor and the Klang Valley that started on Feb 27.

Rationing had initially affected 71 areas in Hulu Langat, Kuala Langat and Sepang, and was triggered by the closure of the Cheras Batu 11 and Bukit Tampoi water treatment plants due to ammonia pollution in Sungai Langat.

A total of 5.9 million people have been affected by the fourth phase of rationing that began recently, after water levels continued to decrease at seven dams that supply raw water to treatment plants in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya

The dry spell had also affected water supply in certain areas in Johor and Negri Sembilan.

Malaysian Nature Society's Johor chairman Vincent Chow said uncertain global weather patterns would likely have an effect on local weather patterns and this may be evident during the five-month dry season.

"The global climate change is quite cuckoo. This can have an effect on the weather in Malaysia, and with the southwest monsoon, the high evaporation could affect water levels at dams. This is something that needs to be looked at seriously."

Chow said temperatures during the southwest monsoon would depend on the level of pollution and other environmental factors. He said the evaporation rate would depend mostly on the movement of air and wind during the southwest monsoon.

Meanwhile, Meteorological Department's commercial and corporate services director Dr Mohd Hisham Mohd Anip said cloud seeding operation continued yesterday at several locations in Selangor in an effort to increase water levels at dams.

"We are still in the inter-monsoon season and it is expected to last until early May in the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia."

Selangor Water Management Authority information officer (corporate unit) Ishak Kamaruzaman said the water level at the Sungai Selangor dam stood at 37.73 per cent (190.45m) yesterday.

"The dam supplies water to 60 per cent of Selangor residents and needs to reach 55 per cent of its capacity before we can end the water rationing exercise.

"However, the low quantity of rain at water catchment areas has not raised water levels at dams across the state."

Yesterday, water levels at the Klang Gates dam stood at 89.92m, Langat dam (211.70m), Sungai Tinggi dam (52.97m), Batu dam (99.18m), Sungai Labu dam (38.90m) and Semenyih dam (106.11m).

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Asian air pollution strengthens Pacific storms

Rebecca Morelle BBC News 14 Apr 14;

Air pollution in China and other Asian countries is having far-reaching impacts on weather patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that pollutants are strengthening storms above the Pacific Ocean, which feeds into weather systems in other parts of the world.

The effect was most pronounced during the winter.

The study is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Lead author Yuan Wang, from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology, said: "The effects are quite dramatic. The pollution results in thicker and taller clouds and heavier precipitation."

Toxic atmosphere

Parts of Asia have some of the highest levels of air pollution in the world.

In China's capital, Beijing, pollutants frequently reach hazardous levels, while emissions in the Indian capital, Delhi, also regularly soar above those recommended by the World Health Organization.

This has dire consequences for the health of those living in these regions, but there is growing evidence that there are other impacts further afield.

To analyse this, researchers from the US and China used computer models to look at the effect of Asia's pollution on weather systems.

The team said that tiny polluting particles were blown towards the north Pacific where they interacted with water droplets in the air.

This, the researchers said, caused clouds to grow denser, resulting in more intense storms above the ocean.

Dr Yuan Wang said: "Since the Pacific storm track is an important component in the global general circulation, the impacts of Asian pollution on the storm track tend to affect the weather patterns of other parts of the world during the wintertime, especially a downstream region [of the track] like North America."

Commenting on the study, Professor Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading, said: "We are becoming increasingly aware that pollution in the atmosphere can have an impact both locally - wherever it is sitting over regions - and it can a remote impact in other parts of the world. This is a good example of that.

"There have also been suggestions that aerosols over the North Atlantic effect storms over the North Atlantic, and that aerosols in the monsoon region over South Asia can affect circulation around the whole of the world."

Asian Pollution Boosts Pacific Storm Power
Becky Oskin, Yahoo News 15 Apr 14;

Pollution from China's coal-burning power plants is pumping up winter storms over the northwest Pacific Ocean and changing North America's weather, a new study finds.

Northwest Pacific winter storms are now 10 percent stronger than they were 30 years ago, before Asian countries began their industrial boom, according to research published today (April 14) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

North America will be hardest hit by the intensifying storms, which move from west to east, said lead study author Yuan Wang, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

"The increasing pollution in Asian countries is not just a local problem, it can affect other parts of the world," Wang told Live Science.

Aerosol emissions have rapidly increased in Asia in recent decades. For example, China is now the world's largest coal consumer, and in Beijing, air pollution levels have soared 400 times higher than World Health Organization limits. In contrast, aerosols from North America and Europe have meanwhile decreased, because of clean air regulations. [China's Top 6 Environmental Concerns]

Wang and his co-authors examined how the tiny pollution particles in Asia play a role in cloud formation and the storms that spin up each winter east of Japan, in a cyclone breeding ground north of 30 degrees latitude. Monsoon winds carry aerosols from Asia to this storm nursery in the winter.

The researchers created a computer model of six kinds of aerosol pollution and tested their effects on clouds, precipitation and global weather patterns. Different aerosols affect storms in varying ways, such as by blocking the sun's radiation or providing a nucleus around which water vapor can condense to form raindrops.

The new study finds that sulfate aerosols are among the most important drivers of Pacific storms, by encouraging more moisture to condense in clouds, Wang said.

Pollution from Asia is also changing weather patterns over North America, Wang added.

Wang said this winter's unusually cold weather east of the Rocky Mountains could have been influenced by pollution-driven cyclones and high-pressure systems in the northern Pacific. These Pacific weather patterns caused swoops in the jet stream that drove cold air south across the central and eastern United States — the so-called polar vortex. The same weather patterns are linked with record-high temperatures in Alaska this winter.

"This cold winter in the U.S. probably had something to do with stronger cyclones over the Pacific," Wang said.

The researchers are testing more sophisticated computer models to better understand the effects of stronger storms and increasing pollution on global weather patterns, Wang said.

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