Severe drought threatens Metro Manila, Biliran

EXPERTS forecast this year’s anticipated record drought-driving El Niño phenomenon to further lessen rainfall in the country, worsening water woes of Metro Manila and other areas.

“We expect severe drought conditions in Metro Manila and Biliran province by the end of February 2016,” said Anthony Lucero, Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section OIC of state weather agency Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

He also said moderate or less severe drought conditions are likely by February 2016’s end in several areas across Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.

Pagasa identified such areas as Luzon’s Region 3 (Central Luzon), Region 4B (Mimaropa), and Rizal, Laguna, Cavite, Camarines Sur, Albay, Sorsogon and Catanduanes provinces; the Visayas’s Panay Island and Negros Occidental, Cebu and Leyte provinces; Mindanao’s Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga provinces, as well as Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Moderate drought is also likely by then in parts of Quezon province, mainland Cagayan Valley and mainland ARMM, Pagasa noted.

According to Pagasa, drought is three consecutive months of way below-normal rainfall condition, or over 60-percent reduction from average rainfall.

Drought can also be five consecutive months of below-normal rainfall condition, or 21-percent to 60-percent reduction from average rainfall, Pagasa continued.

Severe drought covers longer periods, however, Lucero noted.

He urged all sectors to prepare accordingly and use water wisely. Latest available data indicate the “strong” El Niño that’s already in progress in the tropical Pacific will likely further intensify to a new record high.

“The El Niño at present can possibly become stronger than this phenomenon’s strongest episode during the 1997 to 1998 period,” he noted.

A study published in 2009 in the Philippine Journal of Development cited the 1997 to 1998 El Niño as the strongest to affect the country during the 20th century.

The study also said the 1997 to 1998 El Niño was worse than its 1982 to 1983 counterpart, which caused an estimated $13 billion in global damages.

Philippine damage from the 1982 to 1983 El Niño reached some $450 million, the study noted.

According to Pagasa, weather systems that might affect the country this September despite the prevailing El Niño are ridge of high-pressure area, as well as the rain-driving southwest monsoon, intertropical convergence zone, low-pressure area and tropical cyclones (TCs).

Expected in the country are two to four TCs this September, two to three TCs in October, one to two TCs in November and zero to one TC each in December, as well as January and February 2016, Pagasa also said.

For Metro Manila, this September, however, Pagasa forecast below-normal rainfall which is among occurrences during El Niño episodes.

The agency expects conditions in Metro Manila to further worsen afterward, forecasting in this megalopolis way below-normal rainfall from October to February 2016.

State forecasters expect Metro Manila to be alreadydrought-stricken by February next year.

For Biliran, Pagasa forecast below-normal rainfall from September to December. Biliran will likely experience way below-normal rainfall in January and below-normal rainfall in February, Pagasa noted.

Pagasa forecast Biliran to be under the dry spell by 2015’s end and drought-stricken by February next year.

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