Dry spell by end of 2009 feared

September 11, 2009 11:04 am 

By Mediatrix P. Cristobal

MANILA, Sept 11 — El Niño, the weather condition named after a boy, has gained muscles and is shaping up to be a threat particularly to the agriculture industry with possible dry spell late this year 2009 until the first months 2010.

This, according to Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), despite the heavy rains felt across the country.

"The unusual warming of sea surface temperatures (SST) along the Equatorial Pacific has further developed into a weak El Niño," Pagasa chief Prisco Nilo said.

El Niño's calming influence on the tropics was established in June and has since rapidly formed into weak or possibly moderate El Niño conditions.

Indicators consistent with developing El Niño are weaker than average low level equatorial easterly winds which have persisted across most of the Equatorial Pacific and lower than average occurrence of tropical storms are now being felt, he said.

Southwest monsoon activity had been in full swing during the past two months but in August, only one tropical storm, Kiko (international name Morakot) struck the country, compared to the monthly average of three during the month of August.

Such occurrence is an early manifestation of El Niño, Nilo said.

However the presence of El Niño will not immediately impact the country with dry conditions.

Instead, there will be a transition period called reversal effect, which is characterized by increased rainfall. The onset of El Niño in the country can be felt usually two to three months from its onset.

"El Niño conditions will peak around December to January 2010," Flaviana Hilario, chief of the Pagasa's climatology and agrometeorology branch (CAB) said.

El Niño, a condition marked by warming Pacific Ocean temperatures, typically tends to reduce both storm numbers and intensity, and creates strong winds in the upper atmosphere that can take the wind out of storms.

El Niño usually means lack of rainfall and lesser tropical cyclones for the Philippines.

"This La Niño will not be as strong as 1997-1998 El Niño which lasted a year," Hilario however said.

The Pagasa, however, warned of possible impacts of El Niño on domestic water supply, agriculture and day-to-day weather conditions.

Areas identified by Pagasa likely to experience below normal rainfall by December are extreme northern Luzon, Cagayan, Batangas, Mindoro, Western Visayas and Negros Oriental, Camarines Sur, Samar provinces, Northern Mindanao and Lanao del Sur.

Meanwhile, Pagasa Deputy Director Nathaniel Cruz assured that the agency had been meeting monthly and coordinating with other government agencies on mitigation measures against El Niño.(PNA) <br)vcs/MPC

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