Haze to come and go

Haze to come and go

14 July 2009

published by www.straitstimes.com

Singapore —

Expect more grey skies and stuffy conditions as a mixture of scrub fires in Indonesia and El Nino’s impending weather shift brings more haze to Singapore.

These conditions will continue over the next few months, predict weather experts.

Last weekend, moderate haze descended upon many parts of Singapore as weather monitoring satellites picked up an increase in the number of hotspots in Sumatra, said weather expert Koh Tieh Yong, from the school of physical and mathematical sciences at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

More farmers and logging companies on the Indonesian island, west of the Republic, are setting fires to clear forests. And winds from the current Southwest monsoon are blowing the smoke towards Singapore.

According to data from Singapore’s National Environment Agency’s (NEA’s) website, the number of hotspots fluctuated over the past 30 days. There were as many as 280 spotted early this month, up from almost zero near the end of last month. But this dropped to about 20 last week.

The overall 24-hour PSI reading, which measures air quality, was 50 on Friday and 40 for Saturday and 45 for Sunday. Readings from one to 50 are considered good.

This change in conditions may also be due to the development of the El Nino weather pattern, which warms the Pacific Ocean causing dry weather in our region, said Dr Lim Hock Beng, programme director of NTU’s Intelligent Systems Centre, which sets up mini weather stations in schools as one of its tasks.

The last time land-clearing fires in Indonesia coincided with El Nino was in 2006, bringing a warmer and longer dry season.

‘Whether we will see haze or not in Singapore depends on a particular day’s precise wind direction,’ said Dr Koh.

The NEA spokesman said winds over the next few days are expected to blow from the southeast or south and Singapore is unlikely to be affected by as much haze.

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