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PAGASA confirms possible impact of El Niño to the country. Here’s what you should know about the phenomenon

By Yoniel Acebuche Published Jul 04, 2023 5:32 pm

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) declared on Tuesday, July 4, the start of the El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean which can cause an adverse impact on the country.

For the past months, various government agencies are preparing for this due to its effect on different sectors of the country including water resources, agriculture, energy, health, and public safety as well as the Filipinos who might be underestimating the phenomenon.

To help you prepare for the upcoming season, here are some important details you need to know about El Niño. 

What is El Niño?

El Niño is a climate pattern that describes the unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It lowers the possibility of rainfall which could bring negative impacts such as dry spells or even drought. It happens when sea surface temperatures over the Central and Eastern Pacific Oceans warm up and affect air and sea currents.

Though it was characterized as weak, the last El Niño episode that affected the Philippines was during the last quarter of 2018 until the third quarter of 2019.

El Niño occurs on average every two to seven years, and episodes usually last nine to 12 months. 

Last May, the state weather bureau raised the El Niño alert status.

PAGASA upgrades Alert System Status

PAGASA has upgraded the status of El Niño from "El Niño Alert" to "El Niño Advisory," which means that the country should take action. This means that El Niño is now present in the tropical Pacific and will peak and persist until the first quarter of 2024. There are also signs that El Niño will strengthen in the coming months. However, the Philippines is still experiencing weak El Niño.

According to PAGASA, there are models that show a higher probability of more than 56 percent that El Niño will become moderate to strong at least during the last quarter of the year or end of this year.

What to expect during El Niño?

Although El Niño increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions, PAGASA also said above-normal rainfall conditions during the Southwest Monsoon or Habagat season may also be expected over the western part of the country.

10 to 14 Tropical Cyclones are also expected until December 2023 including two to four in July; two to three in August, September, and October; and one or two in November and December. The average typhoon that occurs in our country is about 19 times a year.

Dr. Esperanza Cayanan, Weather Services Chief of PAGASA, said that if the ocean is warm, there is a possibility of strong typhoons forming in the central equatorial Pacific. This means that heavy rainfall could still be experienced in the coming months.

“Tama ka na ‘pag mainit ang karagatan, possible ang malalakas na bagyo na ma-form sa area (central equatorial Pacific) na yun,” she said.

However, Cayanan also said that when El Niño is present in the area, there is a reduction in rainfall compared to what we normally experience. Since rainfall is one of the factors that contribute to our daily water supply, this could lead to lower water or energy supply.

Risks of El Niño

Due to the blistering temperature, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke can possibly experience by everyone.

Last April, the Philippines recorded the highest heat index at 47 degrees Celsius in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, and Butuan City Agusan which is considered as dangerous.

Aside from that, since there is a reduction in the rainfall, there might be a challenge in the water supply especially to the agricultural sector. This may reduce rice production and affect the electricity supply since some power plants depend on dams.

Preparations needed
  • Stay updated. Always watch and read the weather reports. You may also check the El Niño Advisory on the official website of PAGASA or other advisories from authorities in order to help you prepare for extreme temperatures.
  • Keep yourself hydrated and healthy. Wear comfortable clothing and sunscreen before going outside, and avoid outdoor activities during the hottest hours. Heat stroke is also possible with continued exposure.
  • Conserve water. As rainfall decreases, it is important to conserve water. So, be mindful of how much water you use when showering, washing dishes, doing laundry, and even watering plants.