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Bracing for drought

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According to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, the country has experienced the least number of storms in 2023 in the past 25 years, but now faces potentially the worst drought in decades.

The archipelago, which is ranked among the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change, is usually affected by around 20 major storms a year. However, for this year, only 10 have made landfall or come close, the lowest number since 1998, when 11 were recorded, said Ana Solis, PAGASA chief climatologist.

With less than three weeks of the year left, “it looks like the record will be beaten,” Solis said, adding that climate change was ‘probably’ a factor.

Meanwhile, as a consequence of the El Niño, the Philippines is also likely to experience “moderate to severe drought conditions” from February to May 2024. That would be comparable to the drought of the 1997-98 El Niño, which was the country’s worst ever dry spell.

Department of Science and Technology Secretary Renato Solidum said 77 percent of the country’s provinces are expected to be in drought by the end of May. He urged government agencies to begin preparing to ensure enough water, food, and electricity would be available by then.

He added that temperatures in Metro Manila could reach up to 38.3C in April and May, while northern areas of Luzon could hit 41C.

Ordinary Filipinos could already feel something wrong, as the December breeze has been missing its signature chill, and this could be a warning that we should take seriously as we prepare for the year ahead.

When the government and scientists are warning us to expect a drought in the coming year, it is something we should heed. Preparations for drier than usual conditions should already have started, not just among farmers, but for everyone who can be potentially affected by drought conditions and heat waves.*

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