BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, June 10 (Borneo Bulletin/ANN): With the potential of hot and dry weather in the coming months due to El Nino developing this year, Brunei Minister of Development Dato Seri Setia Awang Muhammad Juanda, urged the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution Countries (MSC) to continue working closely together and further strengthen regional cooperation towards preventing haze pollution.
The MSC comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei.
The minister highlighted on the importance of continuous regional cooperation to tackle haze at the 24th Meeting of the Sub-Regional Ministerial Steering Committee on Transboundary Haze Pollution (24th MSC) held in Singapore on June 8. The minister shared that Brunei’s air quality was good with a pollutant standard index (PSI) below 50.
The favourable wind conditions and intermittent showers and rains have lessened the impact of hazy condition in the Sultanate. The 24th Meeting of the Technical Working Group on Transboundary Haze Pollution (24th TWG) preceded the meeting.
According to JASTRe, the meeting noted the Asean Specialised Meteorological Centre’s (ASMC) weather and smoke haze review, as well as outlook for the southern ASEAN region. Hotspot counts detected in January to May were around 16 per cent lower than in January to May 2022 for the southern ASEAN region.
Based on current climate models, ASMC forecasts a 70 to 80 per cent chance for El Niño conditions to develop between June to September 2023 and for a positive Indian Ocean Dipole to develop between June and July 2023.
Both these phenomena would likely result in below normal rainfall for many parts of the southern Asean region in the next few months. Alert Level One was issued for the southern ASEAN region on May 29 which indicates the start of the dry season.
The meeting noted ASMC’s continuous efforts to improve its products and services in remote sensing, dispersion modelling, sub-seasonal to seasonal prediction and climate change projections modelling.
This supports fires/haze monitoring, assessment and early warning, as well as weather and climate prediction in the ASEAN region.
The ASMC extended its regional capability building programme to 2027 and conducted an attachment programme for participants from Myanmar and Laos from March to April.
The meeting noted that the information presented by the Malaysian Meteorological Department (METMalaysia) on the refinement of the Southeast Asia Fire Danger Rating System (SEA FDRS) comprises three elements. An increase in the number of weather stations from 264 to 459.
The implementation of new fire danger code for the northern ASEAN sub-region (Fire Weather Index – FWI and Fine Fuel Moisture Code – FFMC) and simulation of the seven-day forecast. The meeting also noted the refinement development started from 2021 to 2022 and the new element of FDRS was operationalised from January 13.
Verification of FWI data showed that FDRS seven-day forecast product was reliable and robust. The meeting supported the initiatives by METMalaysia and will continue the cooperation and promote the usage of new refinements of SEA FDRS.
The dry season this year could be prolonged and intense compared to the past three years when La Niña conditions were present, and that the risk of elevated hotspot activities and transboundary smoke haze occurrence was the highest since 2019.
The MSC countries pledged to stay vigilant and intensify their fires monitoring and haze preventive efforts to minimise the occurrence of transboundary smoke haze during drier periods.
The MSC countries reaffirmed their readiness to provide assistance on emergency response situation and to collaborate among MSC countries with enhanced cooperation and coordination to mitigate land and forest fires.
The meeting recognised the effects of climate change, such as more frequent drought and agreed on the importance of taking strong action to improve vigilance, preventive measures, and immediate fire suppression to minimise the occurrence of transboundary haze during periods of drier weather. - Borneo Bulletin/ANN