October 6, 2023
PETALING JAYA – Going by year-end weather predictions, Malaysians could face a wet Christmas and New Year due to the northeast monsoon setting in.
Once this subsides, another grim prospect lies ahead – the possibility of searing temperatures.
This will likely happen if a heatwave repeats itself in March next year, with the Malaysia Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) warning that temperatures could reach as high as 38°C due to the El Nino phenomenon.
El Nino occurs on average every two to seven years, and the episodes typically last nine to 12 months.
MetMalaysia deputy director-general (operations) Lim Ze Hui said data from March to April this year showed extreme heat hovering in the 35°C to 36°C range in Malaysia.
“This was not only in Malaysia (but also) Thailand, Vietnam, India and southern China, which recorded temperatures up to 45°C.
“Malaysia experienced temperatures between 35°C and 36°C, which is considerably hot.
“Considering the heat experienced this year, I am worried that it will repeat in March and April next year with the temperature being higher than normal due to the El Nino,” he told The Star in an exclusive interview recently.
This concern arose due to the heatwave experienced across South-East Asia earlier this year.
The unprecedented heat saw countries such as Vietnam and Thailand recording 44.1°C and 50.2°C respectively.
Lim also pointed out how the highest temperatures recorded in Malaysia were during an El Nino period.
A temperature of 40.1°C was recorded in Chuping, Perlis, in April 1998.
The highest recorded temperature as at September was 38.5°C in Felda Sungai Koyan, Pahang, on April 16.
“We need to see the situation in January.
“The impact of the ongoing El Nino may also not be as apparent now due to the intermonsoon and coming northeast monsoon period, with rain still occurring over the east coast states of the peninsula during the northeast monsoon,” he said.
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Lim, however, said no one could predict how long the current El Nino phenomenon would last.
“When the previous La Nina first occurred, no one knew it would last that long. It lasted three years. That was a special case,” he said.
“For the current El Nino, we do not know how long it will last but climate models dictate that it will last until the end of March next year.
“Its life cycle should be between nine and 12 months.”
Lim was responding to a question on whether an extended El Nino could be expected, following the prolonged La Nina phenomenon.
The La Nina phenomenon, which brings greater rainfall, started in 2020 and only ended earlier this year.
It was supposed to only last a year. During that period, the Klang Valley experienced major flooding in December 2021 and March last year.
This also coincided with the northeast monsoon period which lasts from November to January each year.
Baling in Kedah also experienced major floods in July last year.
Based on media reports as of 2015, El Nino has hit Malaysia 12 times, with the first occurring between 1951 and 1952.
The El Nino from 1997 to 1998 also saw a water crisis occurring.
Scientists have said climate change combined with the emergence this year of the El Nino weather pattern, which warms the surface waters in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, has fuelled recent record-breaking temperatures.