NParks rolls out activities to mark start of International Year of the Reef

Ng Huiwen Straits Times 11 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - Learn about the impact of marine trash through a hands-on workshop, visit interactive exhibits and contribute to the collection of data on Singapore's coastal ecosystem.

These are among a series of activities that will be open to the public throughout the year, as the National Parks Board (NParks) marks the start of the third International Year of the Reef.

Held every decade, the celebrations are part of a global effort to increase awareness and understanding of coral reefs, and also the environments related to them, such as mangrove forests and seagrass meadows.

NParks revealed details of its upcoming programmes in a statement on Thursday (Jan 11), while underscoring the importance of Singapore's marine biodiversity and conservation.

Activities include a workshop on Jan 27, where the public can learn about the impacts of marine trash and try their hand at microplastics analysis.

From March 10 to 18, an interactive exhibition - Our Home, Their Home - will be held at Seletar Mall, where children can join in a series of games.

NParks will also be rolling out a new citizen science programme called Beach Patrol to train volunteers to identify coastal species, such as sea turtles and horseshoe crabs, and their possible nests.

Also for the first time this year, experienced scuba divers will be able to take photos and record marine biodiversity in surveys at sites, such as the Sisters' Island Marine Park.

Such surveys will contribute to data on Singapore's coastal ecosystems, and guide long-term conservation management strategies, NParks said.

NParks National Biodiversity Centre director of coastal and marine branch Karenne Tan urged the public to join in the activities, and said: "Our marine biodiversity is our common heritage."

Singapore's coastal and marine habitats are home to a rich array of biodiversity, including more than 250 species of hard corals, which account for 32 per cent of the world's hard coral species.

There are also over 100 species of reef fish, around 200 sponge species and 12 seagrass species, noted NParks.

These habitats are spread along Singapore's northern coast and the northern offshore islands, such as Pulau Ubin and Pulau Tekong.

For more information on the activities, including dates and registration details, visit

Read more!

2017 hottest year on record not influenced by El Nino, says weatherman

KENNETH CHENG Today Online 12 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE — 2017 was the hottest year on record that was not influenced by an El Nino event, the weatherman said, pointing to the effects of global warming and urbanisation.

The mean annual temperature of 27.7°C in Singapore was 0.2°C higher than the long-term average from 1981 to 2010, but lower than 2016's record of 28.4°C.

It was the joint 12th hottest year on record since data collection began in 1929, the Meteorological Service Singapore (Met Service) said on Thursday (Jan 11).

The El Nino phenomenon — which contributed to 2015 and 2016 being successive record warm years — leads to drier and warmer conditions, particularly between June and October across South-east Asia.

It is the warm phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a temperature cycle in the tropical central and eastern Pacific Ocean that is a major contributor to year-to-year rainfall and temperature variations in Singapore and the region.

The ENSO was "neutral" throughout last year, except in November and December, when it reached "borderline La Nina" values. La Nina is ENSO's cold phase.

"Given the influence ENSO can have on temperatures, it is not surprising that following 2015's large El Nino event which contributed to 2015 and 2016 being successive record warm years, no temperature record was broken in 2017," the Met Service said in its summary of Singapore's weather and climate in 2017.

A detailed Annual Climate Assessment Report will be released on World Meteorological Day in March.

There were nonetheless some sweltering days last year. October was a warm month, and the hottest day was recorded on March 15 in Jurong West, with the thermometer registering 35.7°C.

Temperatures also exceeded 34°C in some areas in January and December, which are usually the cooler months of the year.

The total rainfall for 2017 was "close to normal", said the Met Service. At 2,045.6mm, it was about 6 per cent lower than the long-term average of 2,165.9mm.

Still, heavy downpours from intense thunderstorms led to flash floods, while strong winds from Sumatra squalls also downed trees and branches.

Northeast Monsoon surges led to a wet February and December 2017. In February, a typically dry month, there were 15 rain days, almost twice the average for that month.

Singapore experienced widespread, intermittent rain on the last two days of December due to a monsoon surge and a nearby vortex in the South China Sea.

December was the wettest month, with 371.2mm of rainfall recorded, 17 per cent above the long-term average.

Globally, 2017 was among the hottest years on record.

In November, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said the year was on course to be the second or third warmest on record.

Continuing global warmth means that 2015, 2016 and 2017 were now the three warmest years on record, according to data available to date for 2017, it had said.

Significant weather and climate events in 2017 included a "very active North Atlantic hurricane season, major monsoon floods in the Indian subcontinent, and continuing severe drought in parts of east Africa", said the WMO. In September, for instance, Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, killing hundreds of people and causing widespread damage of infrastructure.


27.7 - mean annual temperature (°C)

Warmest month – June (Marina Barrage)

Coolest month – February (Clementi)

Wettest month – November (Sembawang)

90 – strongest wind gust (kmh), recorded on Sept 20 in Pasir Panjang

2017 warmest year on record for Singapore that's not influenced by El Nino: Met Service
Channel NewsAsia 11 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE: The year 2017 was the warmest on record for Singapore that was not influenced by an El Nino event, said the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS) on Thursday (Jan 11).

The mean annual temperature for 2017 was 27.7°C, which is 0.2°C warmer than the long-term average.

In comparison, the mean annual temperature in 2016 was 28.4°C - but that was a year influenced by El Nino.

The hottest day in 2017 was Oct 18 as far as official records are concerned, with temperatures hitting a high of 34.6°C based on the Changi climate station. That is the main weather facility where the Met Service collects long-term data.

However, the hottest weather for the year actually fell on Mar 15, when the Jurong West climate station recorded a temperature of 35.7°C.

January and December - normally the cooler months of the year - also saw warmer than usual temperatures on some days, MSS added.

This is indicative of the long-term temperature rise that Singapore has been experiencing due to factors such as global warming and urbanisation, it said.

No temperature records were broken in 2017.

New temperature record for Singapore in 2017, another sign of climate change
Audrey Tan Straits Times 11 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - Singapore broke another temperature record last year in what the weatherman says is another sign of global warming.

The mean annual temperature in 2017 was 27.7 deg C, the Meteorological Services Singapore (MSS) said on Thursday (Jan 11) in its review of the weather and climate in 2017.

In comparison, the mean annual temperature was lower than the figures for the two previous years: 28.4 deg C in 2016, and 28.3 deg C in 2015. But both these years were influenced by the El Nino weather phenomenon, associated with hot and dry weather in this part of the world.

This makes last year the warmest year on record that was not influenced by El Nino, said the MSS.

"This is indicative of the long-term temperature rise that Singapore has been experiencing due to factors such as global warming and urbanisation," said the MSS in Thursday's statement.

The 27.7 deg C mean annual temperature was also 0.2 deg C warmer than the long-term average, said the agency, which has been tracking temperature records in Singapore since 1929.

Experts have pointed out that Singapore will face more extreme weather conditions due to climate change, including rising temperatures, prolonged dry spells and more intense rainfall.

The MSS review of last year's weather already showed telltale signs of such events.

Very warm days were experienced in Singapore last year despite it not being an El Nino year, with the hottest day experienced on Oct 18 with a high of 34.6 deg C.

"The normally cool months of January and December also saw warmer than usual temperatures on some days," said the MSS.

Heavy rain from intense thunderstorms caused flash floods, fallen trees and branches. A waterspout - associated with thunderstorm clouds - was also observed off Singapore's southern coast in June.

February, usually a dry season, saw twice the amount of rain compared with the long-term average, said the MSS.

But the wettest month of the year was recorded in December, with a total rainfall of 371.2mm.

Read more!

New six-month programme will promote co-existence between humans and wildlife

Audrey Tan Straits Times 11 Jan 18;

SINGAPORE - What do you do if you find turtle eggs on a beach? How do you go for a walk in a nature reserve without being disturbed by cheeky macaques? What should you do when you encounter a wild boar?

These are among the questions being asked after a spate of wildlife encounters in the city, the most recent being a young girl who was nipped by an otter at Gardens by the Bay on Dec 30.

To better educate people on how to deal with Singapore's native wildlife, the National Parks Board (NParks) announced on Thursday (Jan 11) that it will be conducting a novel six-month programme for people aged between 16 and 30.

NParks will be working with the youth wing of Biodiversity Roundtable – a group of scientists and naturalists who study Singapore’s native wildlife – on the initiative.

The Biodiversity Challenge aims to teach participants about the importance of co-existing harmoniously with wildlife, and how to do so. Around 80 people have signed up so far.

Workshops, seminars and training sessions will give participants the chance to shadow researchers and naturalists studying various animals, as well as park managers.

They will learn about the factors involved in managing human-wildlife interactions, such as how to communicate with the people involved, and start initiatives to promote nature conservation.

The five focus animals will be otters, macaques, wild boars, turtles, and civets - adaptable animals that Singaporeans are most likely to encounter as they thrive in urban areas.

In the past year, there have been many encounters with these animals - some positive, and others less so, with wild boars in particular being involved in incidents that caused injury to humans.

The Biodiversity Challenge will be launched by Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee on Saturday during the first phase of the programme - a seminar about human-wildlife interactions in Singapore.

Mr N. Sivasothi, a senior lecturer at the Department of Biological Sciences at the National University of Singapore, said the challenge was an exciting programme that reaches out to those with no prior knowledge of native wildlife.

"The participant will gain a foothold into learning about the intersection of environment, people and wildlife and be provided with the opportunity to share what they have learnt with family, friends and the public."

Read more!

Indonesia: BRG Urges Government to Empower Peatland Societies Through Social Forestry Scheme

Dames Alexander Sinaga Jakarta Globe 10 Jan 18;

Jakarta. Indonesia’s Peat Restoration Agency, or BRG, and several civil society organizations urged the government on Tuesday (09/01) to apply its social forestry programs to poor communities residing in degraded peatland areas.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration has set a target of allocating 12.7 million hectares across the country under the social forestry scheme by 2019. The program will be implemented by the Ministry of Environment and Forestry and aims to increase the welfare of communities in and around forests.

Myrna Safitri, deputy head of BRG, said her agency has been trying to collaborate its peatland restoration programs with the ministry’s social forestry programs.

She said the government's social forestry programs have a binding power which is directly related to land suitability and land tenure.

According to Myrna, the program is already up and running at several locations across the country, though problems still persist.

"The coordination between us and the ministry as the licencor of the social forestry permit is going well. It is important to include peatland management as part of the social forestry programs as it should be beneficial to the community," Myrna said in a statement received by the Jakarta Globe on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Rahmat Sulaiman, coordinator of the non-governmental organization Geodata Nasional (GDN), said his organization has conducted research that indicates that communities near peatlands have a basic knowledge of responsibly managing the land.

Rahmat explained that land suitability is not balanced with land tenure, as many land concessions in the area include industrial forest permits and palm oil plantation permits.

"The imbalance between land suitability and land tenure in peatlands causes a distortion in the community. Some want to restore the degraded peatlands, but there are no supportive factors. That’s why they ended up becoming reluctant to restore peatlands," Rahmat said.

According to Erna Rosdiana, social forestry director at the Ministry of Forestry, 1.087 million hectares had been distributed among 267,165 households of forest communities by November 2017.

Erna said that those who obtained permits for using the land must do it in accordance with the standards of sustainable forest management.

"Social forestry is not just about distributing land, it must be in line with the principles of sustainable forest management," she said.

Read more!

Indonesia: Four orangutans released into Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park

The Jakarta Post 11 Jan 18;

The US Embassy, the Indonesian government and the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) Foundation on Thursday announced the successful release of two male and two female rescued orangutans into the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park in the center of Kalimantan.

The release of the four orangutans raised the total number of the rescued critically endangered animals in the national park to 75 since the first release in August 2016.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) has committed US$87.8 million from 2015 to 2020 to assist the Indonesian government improve the management of nearly two million hectares of orangutan habitat and preserve protected species.

“We are proud to work with the Indonesian government and the BOS Foundation to release more orangutans back to their natural habitat,” USAID Acting Mission Director Ryan Washburn said in a statement.

Central Kalimantan Conservation and Natural Resources Center (BKSDA) head Adib Gunawan said: “We should continue to release orangutans back into their natural habitat because there are still hundreds of orangutans currently residing in rehabilitation centers.”

The head of the Bukit Baka Bukit Raya National Park Center for Central and West Kalimantan Heru Raharjo said his institution would make sure all of the orangutans were able to reintegrate into their habitat and increase their population.

The CEO of the BOS Foundation, Jamartin Sihite, said there were hundreds of other orangutans waiting at the Foundation’s rehabilitation center in Nyaru Menteng.

“Let us work together to save the remaining orangutans and forests because conserved and protected forests are important factors for the quality of human life.” (ebf)

Read more!

New York unveils plans for fossil fuel divestment

Jennie MATTHEW AFP Yahoo News 11 Jan 18;

New York (AFP) - New York announced plans Wednesday to sell off $5 billion in fossil fuel investments from city pension funds after suing for billions of dollars in damages from oil companies to help fund protection against climate change.

While other cities in Europe and the United States have already taken similar steps, New York hailed its move as significant as it is the biggest metropolis in the country. The city suffered billions of dollars of damage in Hurricane Sandy.

New York's $189 billion pension fund -- held for city employees such as police officers, teachers and firefighters -- currently has around $5 billion in securities of more than 190 fossil fuel companies, officials said.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said staff will instruct fund trustees to start analyzing ways to divest responsibly from fossil fuel over the next five years, in a process that officials warned would not be easy and that would take time.

"New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major US city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels," de Blasio.

US President Donald Trump inflamed the world last year by announcing that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord, setting off a crescendo of efforts by Democrat-run cities and states to shrink the country's carbon footprint.

A report issued at UN talks last November said those efforts would not fully counteract Trump's decision to reverse climate policies and promote fossil fuel use.

In December, the United States did not attend international climate talks in Paris, at which countries announced they were boosting investment in green energy and divesting from fossil fuels.

New York, home to 8.5 million residents and the US financial capital, is a bastion of opposition to Trump.

The city has filed a federal lawsuit seeking damages from BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell to help compensate its $20 billion plan to protect the city, economy and public services from the effects of climate change.

De Blasio drew comparisons between oil companies and the tobacco industry, which knowingly profited out of a habit they knew to be harmful.

- Courts 'not the answer' -

"New York City is taking on these five giants because they are the central actors, they are the first ones responsible for this crisis, and they should not get away with it anymore," de Blasio told reporters.

"As climate change continues to worsen, it's up to the fossil fuel companies whose greed put us in this position to shoulder the cost of making New York safer and more resilient," he added.

Chevron, ExxonMobil and Shell issued statements calling the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a global issue that required more sweeping action than lawsuits.

BP and ConocoPhillips declined to comment.

"Climate change is a complex societal challenge that should be addressed through sound government policy and cultural change to drive low-carbon choices for businesses and consumers, not by the courts," said a spokesperson for Shell.

Hurricane Sandy paralyzed New York in 2012, causing nine-foot (three-meter) floods across coastal New York and New Jersey, and an estimated $71 billion in damage.

A study published by researchers last October warned that rising sea levels from man-made climate change could prompt catastrophic flooding in New York as frequently as once every five years by 2030 to 2045.

Last month, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also unveiled plans to divest state pension funds from fossil fuel investments.

In June 2016, the largest public pension fund in the US capital Washington said it had successfully purged its $6.4 billion fund of all direct holdings in fossil fuels.

Later that year, global movement DivestInvest said funds held by institutions and individuals committed to divesting from fossil fuel had reached $5.2 trillion.

Read more!