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Hotter 2024: DOST says stronger El Niño could lead to drought in 65 provinces

By NICK GARCIA Published Dec 13, 2023 4:40 pm

It's going to be even hotter in 2024, and at least 65 provinces in the Philippines may experience drought in May that year due to a stronger El Niño, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said on Dec. 12.

DOST Sec. Renato Solidum Jr., in a press briefing, said the effects of El Niño are already being felt in some areas of the country, characterized by a reduction of rainfall up to 80%.

“Moderate to severe drought conditions are likely from February to May 2024,” Solidum said. “By the end of May… 77% of the provinces of the country will have potential for drought… and 7% potential for dry spell or around six provinces.”

A dry spell is a phenomenon in which rainfall is reduced for weeks to months. Drought, meanwhile, leads to a deficiency of water resources like rivers or lakes and can last for months to years.

Solidum didn’t name the provinces that would be affected.

He said there would also be less tropical cyclones, which would contribute to the persistence of dry conditions in some areas.

The country endured fewer storms this year compared to the past 25 years. It faces an average of 20 storms annually, but only 10 storms have made landfall or come close this time around.

Solidum urged the public to intensify efforts to ensure readiness in dealing with the El Niño, especially in areas like water, agriculture, sanitation, and peace and order.

El Niño is a phenomenon in which there’s an unusual warming of surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. It affects ocean temperatures, the strength of ocean currents, the health of coastal fisheries, and the weather.

State weather bureau PAGASA, in its Dec. 6 advisory, said a strong El Niño phenomenon is present in the tropical Pacific region.

“A strong El Niño is present in the tropical Pacific and further intensified, nearing its peak in the coming months, as sea surface temperature anomalies have reached more than 1.5⁰C,” PAGASA said, adding that it would likely persist until the second quarter of 2024.