Blowing hot and wet


Unpredictable weather: An aerial view of the flash floods in Kuala Lumpur. — Photo courtesy of ITIS DBKL

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia seems to be caught between two extremes, with the sun bearing down and temperatures hitting 35°C on one day, and rain pouring until cities are flooded the next.

The Fire and Rescue Department also seem to be caught between floods and hot places, monitoring flood-prone areas and fire hotspots around the country.

The Malaysian Meteorological Department (MetMalaysia) is also sending out mixed messages.

Earlier this month, its director-general Muhammad Helmi Abdullah announced the start of the south-west monsoon which he said would result in hot weather, with a lack of rain or low rainfall.

Yesterday, however, MetMalaysia released a heavy rain warning in several states which saw flash floods.

Yet, the extreme weather conditions are not “extreme”, say climate experts.

It is a normal occurrence due to the south-west monsoon and La Nina, they say.

Muhammad Helmi told The Star that Malaysia was also experiencing a “monsoon break”.

While the south-west monsoon brings a hot and humid period, he said “a monsoon break is when changes in wind direction encourage the formation of active clouds”.

“The storm line phenomenon, which brings heavy rain and strong winds with lightning in the early morning, can also occur during the south-west monsoon, especially on the west coast of the peninsula and west of Sabah,” he said.

He added that Malaysia was also experiencing a weak La Nina phenomenon at the same time that was causing additional rain.

This, he said, was expected to continue until October.

Universiti Malaya climate specialist Prof Datuk Dr Nor Azizan Abu Samah agreed, saying that Malaysia was receiving “above normal” rain due to La Nina.

“During La Nina, we get 10% to 20% more rain even in a drier period and this is expected to last until October,” he said.

He said the current hot weather was, in fact, normal because there were fewer cloud formations causing more sun radiation.

However, he felt Kuala Lumpur was experiencing an urban heat island (UHI) phenomenon that also lead to more thunderstorms.

UHI is when a metropolitan area is significantly warmer than other nearby rural areas because of human activities and development.

On flash floods in the city, he said they occurred due to drainage issues in the states and not because of the weather.

Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin’s Dr Azimah Ismail also emphasised that flash floods are a drainage problem and urged the authorities to be stricter in land development approval to minimise the hazard.

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