Heatwave sizzles Malaysia’s northern states, with fears it could worsen

State environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said there are worries that the temperatures may go up further as Thailand faced unprecedented high temperatures recently.


Scorched: The effective capacities of Penang’s dams dropped to worrying levels. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

April 14, 2023

GEORGE TOWN – The scorching heat and moderate air pollution has made Perlis, Kedah and Penang a hotspot in more ways than one. The oppressive environment is created by the combination of cloudless skies and humid weather, even though there are scattered bursts of rain every now and then.

State environment committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said there are worries that the temperatures may go up further as Thailand faced unprecedented high temperatures recently.

“We are now moving into the inter-monsoon period from May until July. When there is no rain, the ocean heats up and there is hot wind.

“We expect it to be around 32 to 33 degrees Celcius (in the area).

“In Thailand, they are facing temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celcius, which is unprecedented. We are worried it will happen here as well,” said Phee, who also asked the people to keep themselves well hydrated.

He also appealed for the avoidance of open burning as the overall dryness could lead to a fire that would rage out of control.

“We have put all the voluntary fire squads on high alert for open fires,” he said.

Phee also urged the people, especially those in high-rise buildings to avoid over-using their air conditioners as these would add more heat to the surroundings.

“If everyone uses air-conditioning for hours, the warm air blowing out from the condenser/compressor of air conditioners will add to the problem, especially in high-rise buildings,” he said.

The Air Pollutant Index (API) readings for Penang shows moderate air pollution in Balik Pulau (at 68) and George Town (71), while Tanjung Bungah indicates unhealthy levels at 124.

The mainland shows a reading of between 65 and 83 at various locations, placing them under the “moderate” category, while in Kedah, Alor Setar registered 71, while Perak is ranging between 68 and 72.

It is believed that the current readings are caused by domestic pollution according to data on the regional haze situation from the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre, no hotspots have been detected in Indonesia, Thailand, or Vietnam as yet.

In almost all rural farmlands in South-East Asia, using fire to clear agriculture debris is still prevalent as it is cheap and works to return some minerals to the soil, other than killing pests.

But the resultant smoke will travel hundreds of kilometres and becomes haze in neighbouring countries.

An API reading of between 0 and 50 is good, while 51 to 100 is moderate, 101 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 very unhealthy and above 301 is deemed hazardous.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department’s website indicates that while the whole country is experiencing hot weather, only Sik, Kubang Pasu and Kuala Muda, all in Kedah, are experiencing temperatures between 35 to 37 degrees for more than three days in a row.

The temperature at other parts of the country remain below 35 degrees as of Monday.

The weather forecast for Penang for the next few days indicates rain in one or two places, with temperatures expected to hover above 30 degrees.

Water levels at both dams on the island have dropped to about half their effective capacity, and Penangites have been urged to use water wisely until they return to normal levels.

Penang Water Supply Corporation (PBAPP) chief executive officer K. Pathmanathan said this followed low rainfall recorded at catchment areas for the Air Itam and Teluk Bahang reservoirs since early this year.

“The water level at Air Itam Dam has dropped from 82.5% to 51.8% on April 10, while the level at Teluk Bahang dropped from 64% to 51.3%,” he said.

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