SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network): Transboundary haze originating from Indonesia will not be an issue anymore, even amid the hotter and drier season of El Nino, because the country is well prepared for this, said Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan.
He said authorities are looking to use climate modification technology to produce artificial rain and to strengthen water reserves, which could help to prevent peatland fires.
Luhut was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the Ecosperity Week conference on Tuesday (June 6), in response to a question on whether Singaporeans would have to be concerned about the possibility of haze.
Luhut, who was in charge of managing the haze in 2016, said that the problem has declined since then.
The air quality at the time deteriorated to dangerous levels as a result of excessive quantities of airborne particulate matter from burning oil palm plantations in Sumatra and Kalimantan, causing forest fires.
More prolonged and intense heat and dry weather are expected from June to October in the southern Asean region – which includes Singapore – with a higher risk of transboundary haze and fires, said the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre (ASMC) on May 30.
El Nino – the global weather phenomenon that brings hotter and drier weather to South-east Asia and Australia – is predicted to arrive in the second half of 2023.
A strong El Nino event in 2015 shrouded South-East Asia in thick haze, leading Singapore to close primary and secondary schools for a day in September that year.
The weather phenomenon persisted through 2016, making it the hottest year on record, exacerbated by human-induced warming from greenhouse gases.
The last El Nino cycle – a weaker one in 2018 and 2019 – also led to transboundary haze, and Singapore experienced unhealthy air quality for a few weeks in 2019.
Indonesia’s Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics Agency has forecast that the risk of forest fires will rise when Indonesia entered the dry season in April this year.
It expects that this will be the driest weather since 2019 due to the weakening of the La Nina climate phenomenon, which cools the ocean surface and have contributed to the unusual wet weather experienced in Singapore and South-East Asia in the last three years.
Parts of South-east Asia have been scorching under record heatwaves since April.
In Singapore, temperatures reached 37 deg C on May 13 in Ang Mo Kio, a joint all-time high matching the peak in Tengah in 1983.
ASMC said that another phenomenon, called the positive Indian Ocean Dipole, which causes warmer sea surface temperatures in the western Indian Ocean, could develop in June and July.
An El Nino event with the positive Indian Ocean Dipole could drive up heat and dry weather in the region.