As we welcome the month of June, we also officially bid goodbye to the Tag-Init Season as PAGASA declared the onset of the Rainy Season yesterday evening.
In a press statement, the weather bureau said that widespread rainfall has been observed these past few days. Most parts of the country are likely to experience near to above-normal rainfall conditions in June to July. However, breaks from the rains will occur, possibly lasting for several days to weeks due to the persistence of the Ridge of High-Pressure Area in the North Pacific.
In an interview with PAGASA Weather Forecaster Gener Quitlong, the following criteria for declaring the onset of tag-ulan have been satisfied:
– A total rainfall amount of 25 millimeters or more in three consecutive days which must be recorded at no less than five of these stations: Laoag, Vigan, Dagupan, Iba, Mindoro Occidental, Ambulong, Iloilo, and Metro Manila
– Widespread rainfall due to the prevailing winds brought by the Southwest Monsoon or Hanging Habagat
– Daily thunderstorm activity
To help you stay protected on rainy days, make sure you have the following:
A tornado is a thin column of air extending from a thunderstorm cloud to or near the ground. Rotating counterclockwise at around 450 kilometers per hour or even faster, it is strong enough to uproot trees, damage buildings, and displace vehicles.
Also known as twisters or buhawi in Filipino, tornadoes in the Philippines persist from one to ten minutes, and are capable of traveling a distance of one kilometer. “Kapag ang buhawi ay short-lived, maaaring mas maiksi ang distance na kayang baybayin niyan. Maaari rin namang magkaroon ng matagalang tornado pero almost stationary lamang iyon,” said PAGASA Weather Forecaster Chris Perez. (If a tornado is short-lived, it can only a travel a short distance. On the other hand, a long-lasting tornado can also stay stationary.)
A tornado is a secondary hazard of severe thunderstorms that can also produce hailstorms. Tornadoes can transpire in any part of the country from March to December; however, Luzon experiences less number of tornadoes during the northeast (amihan) season from October to February.
To prevent loss of lives and damage to properties, know what to do before, during, and after a tornado.
BEFORE A TORNADO:
• Check your house for possible weaknesses.
• Keep fragile and light items away from the window.
• All types of buildings must have a safe room, preferably without windows.
• Create a family communication plan and practice it.
• Keep an emergency kit.
• Always monitor the weather, and be alert to changing conditions.
• Stay indoors when a thunderstorm transpires. Severe thunderstorms are heralded by hailstones and huge, dark low-lying clouds.
DURING A TORNADO:
• Be alert at all times.
• Proceed to the basement or the ground level of the building.
• Stay away from windows and items that may fall or break.
• Crouch under a sturdy table if the wind is very violent.
• When inside a car, move out and seek a safe area. If you can’t get out, buckle your seatbelt and drive to the nearest sturdy shelter, and park using the hand-break.
• When outdoors, watch out for falling debris, and stay away from electric posts, underpasses, and bridges. Better to evacuate to a concrete structure.
• If buildings are not present, proceed to a low-lying area or lie flat on the ground.
AFTER A TORNADO:
• Check for injured or trapped people.
• Deal with injuries.
• Stay away from debris and damaged structures.
• Shut off utilities and inspect the house for damage.
A tornado is different from a waterspout, which transpires in bodies of water. Because the wind is colorless, it is difficult to see the first few seconds of a tornado until it becomes visible due to dust and other objects carried by the swiveling winds. In other countries, meteorologists easily predict formation of tornadoes because of their wide diameters that can expand to 200 meters. This weather phenomenon exists in almost every continent except Antarctica due its below-zero temperatures.
Meanwhile, PAGASA Forecaster Perez said that our state weather bureau is now discussing the issuance of tornado watches and advisories.
Rising temperatures, sweltering heat, and that sticky feeling – there’s no doubt that we’re already experiencing tag-init! To help you understand those weather reports better, here are some of the meteorological terms that you will often encounter this season:
1. DRY SEASON
Technically, we do not have “summer”. The Philippines, being a tropical country, has only two official seasons – wet and dry. Summer is experienced in temperate regions with four seasons. In our country, Dry season or tag-init is the equivalent of summer.
These are warm and humid winds coming from the Pacific Ocean, which usually affect the eastern section of the country. However, since warm air or heat is a major factor for cloud formation, Easterlies can also generate isolated thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoon or evening.
3. RIDGE OF HPA
“Ridge” refers to the extended part of a High Pressure Area or an anticyclone. Unlike a Low Pressure Area, this indicates an area where the atmospheric pressure is higher than its surroundings.
Formation of clouds is usually suppressed, thus, less chance of rains. Fair weather is typically experienced when a Ridge of High Pressure Area extends over the archipelago.
4. GENERALLY FAIR WEATHER
Many people still get confused when they hear this. Generally fair weather means partly cloudy to cloudy skies with chances of isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. Less than half of the day will be cloudy, but rains are still possible, depending on the prevailing weather system.
On the other hand, “isolated” means localized. This means that it may be raining in your place, but not in the nearby areas. It happens when clouds are scattered in different parts of the atmosphere.
5. AIR TEMPERATURE
Air temperature is determined by using a weather instrument, commonly a thermometer. Also termed as “surface temperature”, it is obtained when a thermometer is exposed to the air but is sheltered from direct sun exposure.
Humidity is the amount of water vapor or moisture in the air. It can make high temperatures even more unbearable, often with a moist or “malagkit” feeling. Humidity is an important factor that affects the weather and climate as well.
7. HEAT INDEX
Also called as “human discomfort index”, heat index refers to the temperature obtained from the high air temperature and relative humidity. It also describes how the human body perceives the heat or the warm weather.
PAGASA says full exposure to sunlight may increase the heat index by 9 degrees Celsius. PAGASA Weather Forecaster Aldczar Aurelio says the heat index is always higher than the actual air temperature. High heat indices could lead to fatigue, heat cramps, heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Despite the fact that we are already in Tag-init Season, we may still experience rains brought by thunderstorms. Most people get confused when a downpour occurs after hours of scorching heat.
According to Former US Vice President Al Gore, also the founder of the Climate Reality Project, warmer air holds more moisture. Heat also speeds up the evaporation, bringing more clouds, which could later dump moderate to heavy rains.
During a thunderstorm, lightning and thunder also occur, along with gusty winds. Thunderstorms usually occur in the afternoon or evening, which can last for 1 to 2 hours.
9. EL NIÑO
El Niño is a climatic condition wherein an unusual increase in sea surface temperature (SST) or warming of the ocean is observed. In the Philippines, it mostly affects the agricultural sector due to reduced rainfall and warmer weather.
PAGASA says the prevailing El Niño may also have an effect on the current Hot and Dry season. Temperatures may continue to rise, and the duration of tag-init may be prolonged as well.
10. TROPICAL CYCLONE
Tropical cyclone is the general term for a “bagyo,” which starts out from a cloud cluster that develops into a Low Pressure Area (LPA), which has an atmospheric pressure lower than its surrounding locations.
One common misconception during tag-init is that it’s not normal to have a Tropical Cyclone. Every month, there is a chance for a Tropical Cyclone to enter or develop within the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR).
In fact, we monitored “Bagyong Chedeng” just last year and it coincided with the observance of the Holy Week. Chedeng intensified as a Typhoon and even made landfall in Isabela.
This April, the average number of tropical cyclone is 0 or 1. When it comes to the track, it may make landfall or may re-curve northward away from the landmass.
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If you think the rains yesterday was a random occurrence, think again. Expect thunderstorm formation later and more rains as the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) remains situated across the Visayas.
The axis of the ITCZ is where two different winds converge, bringing cloudy skies and precipitation. It is also known to be the breeding ground of Low Pressure Areas and possible tropical cyclones.
Based on PAGASA’s latest weather forecast, this weather system will bring cloudy skies with rain showers and thunderstorms over the Bicol Region, MIMAROPA, Visayas and Mindanao. The rest of Luzon, including Metro Manila, will still experience isolated thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening.
Despite the looming rainy weather condition, the archipelago’s coastal waters remains slight to moderate.
Meanwhile, commuters were stranded due to heavy rains and flooding experienced in Metro Manila yesterday in the late afternoon.
The top three highest rainfall amount recorded are as follows:
State Meteorologist Jori Loiz said that evidently, Metro Manila experienced a high amount of rains, encompassing a big berth of area in the metro.
Everyone is advised to bring umbrellas and to monitor weather updates as we expect another rainy day today.
In other news, today is the beginning of the Ramadan.
Even during good weather, thunderstorm activities may still happen. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), thunderstorms are formed through convection. This is when the heat accumulated during the day contributes to cloud formation that includes cumulonimbus clouds or thunderstorms cloud.
Avoid Getting Struck
The energy from one lightning flash could light a 100-watt bulb for more than three months. Aside from starting fires, it can also damage electrical equipment. According to NOAA, 80% of lightning fatality victims are male, between the ages of 15 and 40.
It pays to be aware of cumulonimbus clouds. Remember that you are within striking distance of lightning when you hear thunder.
While going indoors is a must, it’s still best to stay away from windows and doors. Some parts of these fixtures are made of metal, a good conductor of electricity.
Monitor weather updates. PAGASA and Panahon TV releases real time updates such as thunderstorm advisories.
Minimize Outdoor Risks
Thunderstorms usually happen in the afternoon or evening. If you are outside when these activities begin, here are some reminders that will keep you safe:
• Avoid tall structures and open areas.
• Stay away from water such as swimming pools, beaches and rivers. Avoid getting wet and avoid wet items.
• Don’t lie flat on the ground. An electrical current produced by a nearby lightning strike can pass through your body—instead do the “thunderstorm squat.”
The Basics of a Thunderstorm Squat
• Crouch low. Do not make yourself the tallest object within the vicinity. Keep your feet close together with heels touching. This will help the electricity to flow continuously from one foot to another.
• Make sure that only a minimal part of your body touches the ground as you squat low. If lightning strikes, the current will most likely travel through your legs, keeping your vital organs like heart safe.
• Cover your ears. Place your hands over your ears. This way, all your extremities are touching together, letting the current just pass through your body.
Meteorology covers a wide variety of terminology that we often hear, but seldom understand and remember. Check out these weather words and be in the know!
Climate is the general weather pattern in a specific area that involves temperature, humidity, rainfall, air pressure and other meteorological variables over a long period of time. According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), some scientists define climate as the average weather condition based on 30 years of observation.
It is important to study climate as it plays a big role in our lives. Rising global temperatures can cause sea levels to rise or affect precipitation over a specific region, human health and various ecosystems. Climate change is one of our generation’s major concerns.
Season refers to the time of the year caused by the tilting of the Earth. The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) says it is the division of the year based on the recurring astronomical or climatic phenomenon.
However, the location of an area, whether it is in the northern or southern hemisphere, affects its seasons. Other regions have complete seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. Philippines, being a tropical country, has two official seasons – wet and dry. The wet season usually starts in June as the southwest monsoon or habagat prevails. Rainfall during this season is concentrated over the western sections of the country.
Meanwhile, dry season normally starts in March when warm and humid weather is experienced. Though the scorching heat is felt over all the country, PAGASA clarifies that the term “summer” is not applicable to the Philippines. Meteorologically, we only have the wet and dry seasons.
The convergence of winds coming from the northern and southern hemispheres results to group of convective clouds known as the ITCZ or Intertropical Convergence Zone. This weather system affects the country depending on the orientation of the sun or the season. Once it becomes active, it can be a breeding ground of weather disturbances or low pressure areas.
Aside from tropical cyclones, ITCZ is one of the weather systems that cause flooding and landslides because it triggers moderate to heavy precipitation over the affected areas.
PAR means Philippine Area of Responsibility, an area in the Northwest Pacific, where PAGASA monitors tropical cyclones that are expected to affect the country. Once a tropical cyclone enters PAR, it is automatically given a local name so Filipinos can easily remember it.
With a measurement of more than 4 million square kilometres, PAR covers the West Philippine Sea, Bashi Channel over the north, part of the Pacific Ocean in the east and Sulu and Celebes Seas in the south.
One must remember that the Philippine Area of Responsibility is different from the country itself. When we say a tropical cyclone is entering the PAR, it doesn’t mean that it will hit the Philippine landmass. It may still change its course or re-curve away from the country.
Filipinos often hear the southwest monsoon or habagat during the rainy season. Characterized by warm and moist air, it speeds up cloud formation, which dumps rains mostly over the western section of the country.
Once a habagat is enhanced by a tropical cyclone entering PAR, it can bring heavy downpour that may cause widespread flooding.
During the passage of “Ondoy” last 2009 and “Maring” in 2013, habagat brought enormous amounts to Luzon, which led to serious flooding.
After habagat comes the northeast monsoon or amihan, a wind system characterized by cold and dry air coming from Mainland China. It normally starts to prevail during mid-October just like this year, when its onset was officially declared by PAGASA on October 16, 2014.
Amihan is responsible for colder mornings and lower temperatures during the “ber” months. It also affects sea conditions and may direct tropical cyclones towards the Philippine landmass with a higher chance of landfall.
PAGASA issues thunderstorm warnings everyday mostly in the afternoon or evening. A thunderstorm is a weather disturbance that produces rains, gusty winds, lightning and thunder.
Thunderstorm formation occurs through water cycle, wherein heat serves as the main component. As the sun heats up the land or a body of water, warm air rises, producing clouds by means of condensation. Once the cloud becomes massive, precipitation follows in the form of rain, drizzle or hail.
Along with gusty winds and moderate to heavy rains, thunder and lightning also occur during a thunderstorm. Lightning is caused by the connection of the positive charges at the top of the cloud and the negative charges formed at the bottom. Due to lightning, thunder is produced by vibration of air particles.
Flooding in low lying areas is expected during thunderstorms.
8. TROPICAL CYCLONE
Tropical cyclone is the general term for a “bagyo,” which starts out from a cloud cluster that develops into a low pressure area (LPA), an area that has an atmospheric pressure lower than its surrounding locations.
A tropical cyclone is classified into three: Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm and Typhoon. Each of these is measured by its maximum wind speeds and not by its amount of rainfall. An average of 19 to 21 tropical cyclones enter PAR each year.
Landfall happens when the surface of a tropical cyclone intersects with a coastline. In this scenario, the landmass or the affected area will experience stormy weather with moderate to heavy rains and gusty winds. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it is possible for a cyclone’s strongest winds to be experienced over land even if landfall does not occur. In some instances, its strongest winds could also remain over the water even if it made its landfall.
Tropical cyclones can have a series of landfalls like what happened to Typhoon Yolanda wherein 6 landfall activities were recorded on the 8th of November 2013.
10. STORM SURGE
Storm surge is the abnormal rise in sea level associated with a tropical storm or typhoon. It is usually measured by deducting the normal high tide from the observed storm tide.
This event is never related to tsunami, which is a sea level rise brought by a strong earthquake. A tsunami is triggered by underwater seismic activities while a storm surge is generated by strong winds from a storm.
Sources: PAGASA-DOST, NOAA, NASA
Have you ever experienced going out of your house to soak in the sun, only to be drenched by sudden rains hours later? According to PAGASA, rain showers or thunderstorms usually occur in the afternoon or evening because of the heat accumulated from morning until the latter part of the day.
This scenario is not so strange; in fact it can be explained by one of the most basic weather processes called water cycle.
When the sun heats the earth’s surface, the water from the ocean or a body of water evaporates and rises up to the atmosphere. Water vapor forms into clouds and undergoes condensation.
When a cloud becomes massive, it can no longer sustain the moisture so it releases water through precipitation in the forms of rain, snow, or hail.
The transformation of a cloud from white to a dark grayish color is brought by the lack of passing light from the sun. The cloud becomes thicker, making it hard for sunlight to penetrate.
During a thunderstorm, lightning and thunder also occur, along with gusty winds and moderate to heavy rains. Lightning is caused by the electric charges within the cloud and the ground. The charges at the top of the cloud are positive while negative charges form at the bottom. When these opposite charges connect, they produce a streak of light called lightning.
Meanwhile, thunder is caused by the vibration of air particles due to lightning. Since light travels faster than sound, thunder usually comes after lightning.
The Life Cycle of a Thunderstorm
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), all thunderstorms originate from a thunderstorm cell which has a distinct life cycle lasting for about 30 minutes.
Towering Cumulus Stage
According to PAGASA, there are main ingredients to form a cumulonimbus cloud – moisture, lifting and unstable atmosphere. When the sun heats the ground, the warm air moves upward, condenses and begins to build clouds. The clouds will then grow vertically and densely.
Mature Cumulus Stage
The cloud continues to increase in size, width and height. In this stage, the affected areas start to experience heavy precipitation and gusty winds. NOAA considers this as the most dangerous stage wherein large hail, damaging winds, and flash flooding may occur.
Also called as the “decaying stage”, the cloud begins to collapse because it no longer has a supply of warm moist air to maintain itself and then it dissipates. The weather gradually calms down to light rains and weak wind flow. The top of the thunderstorm cloud usually flattens, spreads out or becomes less defined. Precipitation becomes light and clouds may also begin to evaporate.
Hazards of Thunderstorms
Flooding & Landslide
When a thunderstorm occurs, it dumps moderate to heavy rains in affected areas. These rains may continue withinthe 1 to 2-hour life span of a thunderstorm, which may result to floods or landslides, mostly in low-lying or mountainous areas.
Thunder & Lightning
The roar of thunder will always be present during the process of a thunderstorm. The noise may be frightening for some, but it is not as dangerous as lightning. Lightning is hazardous because it can strike people or animals, which may lead to death.
This year, casualties from lightning were reported in different parts of the country:
• May 18, 2016 – a farmer and his three cows died in San Agustin, Isabela.
• May 16, 2016 – a farmer and his two cows died after being struck by lightning in Brgy. Aguitap, Solsona, Ilocos Norte.
• May 13, 2016 – In a report of bomboradyo.com, a forester of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) died on the spot due to lightning in Rizal, Cagayan. Four other companions survived and were immediately brought to the hospital.
Although some people may survive a lightning strike, this may also have long-term effects. Though lightning doesn’t cause substantial burns, it has a high possibility of affecting the nervous system, including the brain, as well as the autonomic and peripheral nervous systems.
Once it hits the brain, a person may have difficulties with his memory, coding new information, and accessing old information. The victim may also suffer from problems with multi-tasking, distractibility, irritability and personality change.
Survivors may complain of headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and sleeping disorders. Fatigue has also beenobserved, wherein a person becomes exhausted after working only within a few hours.
Lightning can also generate wildfire, which is very common in the United States. This occurs when there is abundant moisture in the air, but not enough on the surface. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), every lightning strike has the potential to start a fire.
NOAA defines a tornado as a narrow, violently rotating column of air that extends from the base of a thunderstorm to the ground. Since winds are not visible, one can hardly see a tornado unless it is made up of water droplets, dust and debris. NOAA added that tornadoes are considered as the most violent of all atmospheric storms.
In the Philippines, it is locally known as “buhawi”. Here are few incidents recorded in the country:
• May 3, 2016 – three people were injured after a tornado swept Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental. The tornado also damaged 90 houses, two classrooms and a chapel.
• August 13, 2015 – More than 150 houses were wrecked, while seven people were hurt by a massive tornado in Pikit, North Cotabato.
• May 6, 2015 – Around 50 houses were destroyed in a village in San Pedro, Laguna. The tornado only lasted for approximately 10 minutes but it blew off the roofs of the houses and uprooted some trees.
According to PAGASA, tornadoes in the Philippines are smaller and have shorter life spans compared to the onesthat occur in other countries. However, a tornado,regardless of its size, can still be destructive.
Do’s and Don’ts during a Thunderstorm
In an interview with Panahon TV, PAGASA Weather Forecaster Jori Loiz explained the important things toremember when a thunderstorm hits. WATCH: Panahon TV May 18, 2016 (Part 3)
The Thunderstorm Squat
• Crouch low. Do not make yourself the tallest object within the vicinity. Keep your feet close together with both heels touching. In case lightning strikes you, this position will minimize the voltage difference between your feet.
• Make sure that only a minimal part of your body touches the ground as you squat low. If lightning strikes, the current will most likely travel through your legs, keeping your vital organs like your heart safe.
• Cover your ears. Place your hands over your ears. This way, all your extremities are in contact, letting the current just pass through your body.
How do we know if there’s an incoming thunderstorm?
The state weather bureau regularly issues thunderstorm warning levels:
This aims to make us aware that there is a slim chance of thunderstorm and that good weather will possibly prevail. However, since the weather keeps on changing, all are still advised to monitor updates.
Watch out! This one already urges the public to prepare as thunderstorm is more likely to occur or affect the area within the next 12 hours. Within the said span of time, it’s best to continuously monitor updates and take precautionary actions.
Thunderstorm starts to affect a specific place. This is also used to alert nearby areas that a possible thunderstorm may affect them within the next 2 hours.
Keep in mind…
A sunny morning does not always mean it’s going to be sunny all day long. Heat is one of the major factors of water cycle. Whenever clouds are present, there will also be chances of rain.
We have to remember that chances of rain showers or thunderstorms are part of our everyday lives. What we have to do is to be prepared at all times by gearing up with umbrellas and staying updated on weather conditions.