In a recent statement, the Meteorological Department of Malaysia reported that the weather phenomenon El Niño is causing dry and hot weather in Perak and Kedah. They predict that this will continue throughout the rest of Peninsular Malaysia, and reach Sabah and the Miri and Limbang regions of Sarawak, between January and March 2016.
The Meteorological Department also stated that the phenomenon is likely to last until March 2016. Till then, we can expect a 20%-60% decrease in rainfall and 0.5°C – 2°C degrees increase in temperature.
What is El Niño?
El Niño is Spanish for Little Boy, which was a name given by fishermen off the coast of South America who noticed unusually warm weather around Christmas time.
Scientists now use the term El Niño to refer to the complex relationship between wind, ocean currents, and atmospheric temperatures that affects weather conditions around the world, resulting in warmer than usual weather in the Pacific region near the equator over a period of about six months.
This weather phenomenon occurs irregularly every two to seven years and its effects can be felt globally for more than a year.
What are the effects of El Niño?
Some of the effects of this phenomenon are warmer than usual weather, drought and increased risk of wildfires.
In their El Niño advisory note released last month, United Nations ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) stated that this cycle of El Niño could be one of the strongest events since 1997-98.
Unlike the previous cycle in 1997-98, this current cycle started off in 2014 which was mild and localised. Following that, it has intensified, covering a large area of Asia and the Pacific.
United Nations ESCAP also stated that this El Niño could severely impact certain locations, like the uplands of Cambodia, south and central India, south and central Philippines, north and central Thailand, Papua New Guinea and other Pacific island countries.
In Southeast Asia, the El Niño fuelled the wildfires in Indonesia in last year that resulted in severe haze in Indonesia and surrounding countries, including Malaysia, which lasted for a couple of months.
In addition to that, the Health Minister, Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said to the Malay Mail Online that the Health Ministry expects the dengue epidemic in Malaysia to worsen by as much as 50%. This is because the dry and warm weather accelerates the breeding of the aedes aegypti mosquitoes.
For more information about dengue and mosquitoes see our article 4 Dangerous Critters in Malaysia You Should Know About.
What can you do to protect yourself from El Niño?
The best was to handle the El Niño is to conserve water and reduce outdoor activity. However, you should also be careful to make sure that there aren’t any stagnant pools of water that could be ideal breeding spots for mosquitoes.
If you do venture outdoors, make sure to put on some sunscreen and stay hydrated.
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