Climate change behind ‘extreme’ monsoon weather: DMH

By Aye Sapay Phyu
Volume 32, No. 640
August 20 - 26, 2012

A DEPARTMENT of Meteorology and Hydrology official last week attributed the unusually heavy mid-monsoon in Myanmar’s delta and coastal areas to the effects of climate change.

The official described the 2012 monsoon as “extreme” – lower Myanmar has received above-average rain, while falls in the central areas have been sparse – and said rainfall patterns had been significantly different than the 30-year average from 1961 to 1990.

“Myanmar averaged rainfall from one inch to three inches a day in the mid-monsoon season of July and August over that 30-year period. That regular monsoon distribution was advantageous for sectors such as agriculture and transportation. But we observed that in the last 10 years, daily rainfall in the mid-monsoon has increased to five or even six inches,” he said.

“Since the end of July, we have measured five to seven inches of daily rainfall in some areas of lower Myanmar. Over the past 10 years, there have also been days where we measured no rain in the mid-monsoon season.

“Either extreme ­– excessive rain or not enough rain – is a problem for the agriculture sector. Excess rain results in flooding in the paddy fields and on roads. This impacts on the economy and society more broadly.”

While some parts of the country, particularly Ayeyarwady and Bago regions and Kayin State, have experienced flooding this year, the central areas are in drought, he said.

He attributed the flooding to effects of an unusually intense low-pressure area in the Bay of Bengal in early of August.

“Low pressure areas in the northern area of the Bay of Bengal normally cause strong wind and heavy rain within 300 miles, to about Thandwe in Rakhine state. But the impact of this low pressure area reached about 600 miles and caused the Ayeyarwady delta area to also experience extreme weather. Flooding in these areas was at its worst in early August, during the high tide period,” he said.

An official from the Myanmar Red Cross Society said on August 13 that more than 10,000 people had been forced to leave their homes because of flooding in the Bago Region townships of Shwe Kyin, Waw, Madauk, Daik Oo and Kawa.

Meanwhile, an official of the Fire Service Department for Pathein township in Ayeyarwady Region said that about five quarters in Pathein were flooded last week and some of the town’s schools forced to close as a result.

“There are seven relief camps in Pathein. … We are still counting the exact number of people in the camps. Water has been increasing since full moon day of Waso [on August 2]. The water is more than three feet high in some low-lying quarters,” he said on August 16. “The high water level of the Ngawun River combined with continuous heavy rain caused the flooding, which normally happens in Pathein every four years or so.”

DMH reported on August 15 that the Ngawun River exceeded its danger level of 350 centimetres at Pathein by 15cm on August 16.

He said that all parts of Ayeyarwady Region, with the exception of Pyapon, Maubin and Myaungmya township, had reported flooding.

Daw Wint Mon, who visited Yangon from Pathein on August 14, said flooding on the Yangon-Pathein Road was worst near Dar Ka township.

“Water level was about the height of an adult’s knee at three points on the Yangon-Pathein Road. The edge of the road was marked with flags for the safety of the cars,” she said.

The department has forecast another low pressure system could intensify into a depression in the Bay of Bengal in late August.