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Decrypting the Dry Spell

According to the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), a dry spell has been affecting different parts of the country since December 2014. Dry spell happens when below the normal rainfall conditions (21% to 60% reduction from average) are experienced within three consecutive months or two consecutive months of way below normal rainfall conditions (more than 60% reduction from the average). As of April 7, 2015, 30 provinces have been affected – 13 in Luzon, 3 in Visayas and 14 in Mindanao.

PAGASA Weather Forecaster Meno Mendoza clarified that the dry spell is a normal phenomenon in the Philippines. However, this year’s spell is triggered or worsened because of the ongoing weak El Niño.

Prior to the termination of the northeast monsoon, PAGASA issued the first El Niño advisory in early March. In a press statement dated March 11, 2015, an on-going weak El Niño was confirmed through the climate monitoring and analyses of the state weather bureau. El Niño is a climatic condition characterized by the unusual warming of the ocean or an increased sea surface temperature (SST) in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific (CEEP).

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the term El Niño was originally recognized by fisherman off the coast of South America as the appearance of uncommon warm water in the Pacific Ocean. “El Niño” is also a Spanish term meaning “Little Boy” or “Christ child” because this phenomenon arrives around Christmas.

In Philippine context, the weak El Niño is expected to bring below the normal rainfall pattern and warmer air temperatures in different parts of the country in the coming months. Though the average number of tropical cyclones could still be normal, PAGASA has stated that weak El Niño could affect the cyclones’ movement and intensity, causing them to be more erratic and stronger.

Dry spell on electricity and agriculture

Along with the rise in temperatures, the Manila Electric Company (Meralco) said that electricity consumers might also experience an increased generation charge in their bills.

According to Meralco, electricity rates on April went up by 27 centavos on the back of the one-month maintenance shutdown of the Malampaya gas field, which forced power plants to use the more expensive liquid fuel. The overall electricity rate in April is P10.68 per kilowatt-hour, higher than the P10.42 per kwh rate in March, but lower than April 2014’s P11.49 per kwh. Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said in an interview with the Philippine Star that the more critical period is in May, with demand expected to shoot up to as high as 9,100 megawatts.

Despite the escalating temperature, power industry players believe that the Luzon grid may survive the hot and dry season because there are no expected blackouts as feared by the public.

But the dry spell has posed a more concrete threat to the farming industry.

Zamboanga City has already been placed under a state of calamity. Reports said that as of March 30, the dry spell and bush fires have resulted to extensive damage in hectares of rice, corn, vegetables, bananas, cassava and coconuts amounting to more than P132 million.

Meanwhile, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council also declared M’lang and Kabacan in North Cotabato under a state of calamity. Due to dry spell, about P230 million worth of crops were reportedly damaged. Aside from the occurrence of grass fires, the absence of rains the past couple of months has also worsened the situation.

If humans feel the effect of soaring temperatures, animals suffer from their impact, too. The veterinary office in Kidapawan City reported that at least seven hogs and a cow died because of severe heat. The city office has also received reports that some farm animals have weakened, possibly due to heat stroke.

Water Conservation

Conserving water is a must during this current dry spell in the Philippines. Here are some of the water conservation tips that you can begin in your home:

Check and Fix. Regularly check your faucet for leaks. A small drip from an impaired faucet can waste gallons of water per day. Also, check your toilets for leaks. The rule is if there’s a leak, repair it immediately.

Turn it off. Make it a habit to turn off the faucet when not in use— even just for a short time while soaping hands, brushing your teeth and scrubbing the dishes.
The National Water Resources Board (NWRB) suggests turning off the faucet firmly to prevent leakage. It is better to install low volume/high pressure (LV/HP) nozzles or flow constrictors to reduce water usage by up to 50%.

Pair a pail with a dipper. When taking a bath, use a dipper and pail instead of always using the shower. In this way, you’ll be utilizing just the right amount of water.

Shorten baths. Due to the blazing heat, many of us love to take our time in bathing. However, this can contribute to the dry spell. By reducing your bath time by a couple of minutes, you can save gallons of water per day.

Get it fully loaded. It is recommended to wash only full loads in your washing machine to save water. You can also adjust the water levels to match the size of the load.

Know when to water your plants. Watering your plants is best done during the early morning or in the late afternoon. Early morning helps prevent the growth of fungus, and is also a defense against garden pests. Doing this can also reduce water loss or evaporation.

For energy saving tips, read here:
Going Beyond Earth Hour | Panahon TV Blog

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Manila Bulletin
Philippine Daily Inquirer
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