Monday, June 30, 2008


Kenya Meteorological Department

- La- Niña conditions (cool sea surface temperatures) that prevailed during the Long Rains (March – May 2008) rainfall season started to show signs of decaying.
- The West Indian Ocean Sea surface Temperatures Anomalies are now neutral with pockets of negative anomalies over Eastern Indian Ocean.
- The outlook for June to August 2008 indicates that the Coastal Strip of Kenya is likely to experience near normal rainfall with a tendency towards above normal (i.e. enhanced rainfall.) while Western, Nyanza Provinces and some parts Rift Valley are likely to experience near normal rainfall with a tendency towards below normal (i.e. depressed rainfall). The rest of the country is expected to be generally dry. Temperatures over most parts of the country are expected to be normal to slightly cooler that average. The day-to- day variations in temperatures may result in some significantly chilly and cold days, especially over the central highlands.

2. Review of Weather during the “Long Rains” (March - May) 2008 Season
2.1 March - May 2008 “Long Rains” Performance
During the March – May 2008 season, most locations in Kenya experienced depressed rainfall including the Northwestern and Northeastern parts of the country. Nairobi area and much of Central Province also received depressed rainfall. The area along the Coastline and over parts of the Western Highlands (Kakamega, Kericho and Kisii) received rainfall that was within the normal range. The observed rainfall patterns were mainly due to La- Niña (abnormally cool sea surface temperatures) conditions that prevailed over the equatorial eastern Pacific Ocean. In addition, cooler than normal Sea Surface temperatures were also prevalent over the Indian Ocean during this period. As a consequence, most parts of the country experienced depressed rainfall that was also poorly distributed both in space and time.

The Performance of rainfall during March was fairly good except for locations like Mandera (nil), Wajir, Marsabit, Kisumu and Meru that received very depressed rainfall. Other areas received rainfall that was either enhanced or in the normal category. The coastal stations received highly enhanced rainfall. Lamu received 317% of its Long-term mean for March, while Malindi and Mombasa stations received 229 and 217% of their LTMs, respectively.

Analysis of the rainfall performance during April 2008 reveals that most parts of the country experienced depressed rainfall. Most of the rainfall stations in the country recorded rainfall that was well below their Long Term Means (LTMs) for the month. Several stations along the Coastal Strip (Mombasa, Malindi, Msabaha) and a number of stations in central highlands including Nairobi area, Western Kenya, North-western and South-eastern-lowlands recorded less than 50 percent (less than half) of their LTMs. However, Thika station in central Kenya recorded 128 percent of its LTM (above normal or enhanced rainfall). Other stations that recorded enhanced rainfall in April (i.e. above 100 percent of their LTMs) include Embu (119%), Voi (118%), Wajir (113%) and Kisii (109%) while Moyale, Machakos, Meru and Kakamega stations recorded between 75 and 100 percent of their LTMs.

The above rainfall was, however, poorly distributed in time and space over the entire country. Much of the rainfall was recorded in the second and third week of the month. Out of the 341.4mm recorded at Embu station during the month, more than 210mm was recorded in three days (on 20th, 21st and 23rd April) with the heaviest storm amounting to 116.9mm being observed on 21st April.

The month of May 2008 was dry over many locations especially in Central, Northern and Eastern Kenya. Stations in these areas recorded less than 50% of their expected Long-Term Means.

In general, the seasonal rainfall was poorly distributed with long dry spells in-between episodic heavy falls.

3. Forecast for June - August 2008 Season
June –July-August (JJA) constitutes an important rainfall season over the North Rift Valley region of Kenya and significantly contributes towards grain production from the region. The Coastal strip also receives significant rainfall during period. Over much of the country, the season is characterized by generally cool and dry conditions with some attendant impacts.

3.1 Rainfall Outlook

The rainfall outlook for June-July-August 2008 season indicates that:
i. The following areas (shown in yellow in the figure) are expected to receive near-normal rainfall tending to below normal (depressed): Western Province (Busia, Butere, Mumias, Vihiga, Kakamega, Bungoma, etc.), Nyanza Province (Kisumu,Siaya, Migori, Kisii, Kuria, Nyamira, Borabu, Gucha,etc); Northern part of the Rift Valley Province ( Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, etc) and the Central part of the Rift Valley Province (Molo, Kericho, Bomet,Nandi, Sotik etc).

ii. The following areas (shown in grey in the figure) are expected to be generally dry: Much of Central Province (Nyandarua, Nyeri, Thika, Murang’a, Kirinyaga, Mwea, Maragua, etc.); Nairobi Province (Westlands, Embakasi, Kasarani, Dagoretti, etc); Southern part of the Rift Valley Province (Narok, Kajiado, Ngong, Isinya, Namanga, Loitoktok,etc.); the extreme Northern part of the Rift Valley Province (Turkana, Pokot etc); Eastern Province (Embu, Meru, Tharaka, Imenti, Mwingi, Machakos, Makueni, Kibwezi, Marsabit, North Horr, Moyale etc); North Eastern Province (Garissa, Ijara, Wajir, Mandera, Elwalk, etc). However, parts of the Central Highlands and Nairobi area are likely to experience occasional light rains and drizzles.

iii. The following areas (shown in green in the figure) are likely to experience near-normal rainfall with a tendency towards above-normal (i.e enhanced rainfall): The Coast Province (Malindi, Lamu, Kilifi, Voi, Mombasa, Tana River, Kwale, Msambweni, Kinango, Lungalunga, etc).

3.2. Temperature Forecast
Based on the prevailing and expected Sea Surface Temperature (SSTs) anomalies over the Indian and Atlantic Oceans as well as other Synoptic, Mesoscale and local factors that affect the climate of Kenya, and coupling outputs from other centers, the temperatures over Kenya are expected to be normal to slightly cooler that average. The day-to- day variations in temperatures may result in some significantly chilly and cold days, especially over the central highlands.

4. Potential Impacts

4.1 Agriculture and Food Security Sector
In the agricultural areas of North Rift Valley province where rainfall is expected to be near- normal tending to below normal, the farming communities should take advantage of the available rainfall and maximize crop yield through appropriate land-use management. It is advisable that farmers work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture on ways of optimizing the expected rainfall. In the highlands of Central and Eastern provinces, the light rainfall and drizzles expected in this cool cloudy season will contribute towards some crop production albeit with reduced yields.

4.2 Livestock development sector
This sector’s activities are mainly concentrated in the Arid and Semi-Arid (ASALs) areas of the country. These are the same areas where the March-May seasonal rainfall was depressed. Problems of water scarcity as well as further pasture deterioration are likely. Close monitoring of the conditions on the ground and contingency measures such as destocking of animals, hay stocking and rehabilitation of boreholes and other watering points are necessary in order to adequately build the resilience of resident households and communities to cope with the situation. The anticipated water and pasture related problems especially in the ASAL areas are likely to occasion human/human and human/wildlife conflicts over these dwindling resources. Measures should therefore be put in place by the administration and support institutions to ameliorate these conflicts.

4.3 Energy Sector
The Tana and Turkwel catchments are expected to experience insignificant rainfall according to the climatology of June – August season. Given that the March- May season was poor, there is need for the hydro energy sector to control the water in the hydro-dams located along these rivers to ensure optimal hydro-electricity generation and distribution during the season

4.4 Transport sector
Cloudy conditions are likely to dominate during the forthcoming season especially over the highland areas. Light rains, drizzle and foggy conditions are also expected to pose hazards at airports and on the roads. Utmost care is therefore required by all road users to avoid accidents.

4.5 Environmental management
Dry conditions expected during the season are likely to trigger fires which may destroy forests and infrastructure as well as perennial crops such as tea, coffee and sugarcane. Relevant authorities are therefore advised to be on the watch out for such incidents and put mechanisms in place to control such fires whenever they arise.

4.6 Water Resources Management and Development Sector
Water resources for drinking, sanitation and industrial use are expected to be stretched in major cities especially those located in areas expected to receive little or no rainfall during June-August 2008 period. The municipalities are advised to take stock of the water resources available/deficits and build necessary capacities.

4.7 Health and Public Safety
Water and vector borne diseases associated with water scarcity and poor sanitation may emerge in areas expected to receive depressed rainfall. Health authorities are, therefore, expected to be on the look out and equip hospitals with necessary drugs to be able to deal with such situations as they arise.

The use of “jikos” in enclosed spaces during the cold and chilly conditions in the highlands and Nairobi areas could pose risks of carbon monoxide poisoning during the coming season. Transmission of respiratory diseases is also likely to be prevalent as people enclose themselves to escape the cold conditions.


{Press release} 080630 IMD Long range forecast update for the 2008 Southwest monsoon rainfall

Long range forecast update for the 2008 Southwest monsoon rainfall

1. Background
India Meteorological Department (IMD) has been following a two-stage forecast strategy for the southwest monsoon rainfall over the country as a whole, in which the first forecast is issued in April and the forecast update is issued by end of June. Based on a 5-parameter ensemble statistical model, IMD issued the following forecast for the 2008 southwest monsoon rainfall over the country as a whole.

IMD’s long range forecast for the 2008 south-west monsoon season (June to September) is that the rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be Near Normal. Quantitatively, monsoon season rainfall is likely to be 99% of the long period average with a model error of ± 5%. The Long period average rainfall over the country as a whole for the period 1941-1990 is 89 cm.

2. Second Stage Forecasts
IMD has now prepared the following forecasts, which are being released now:
a) Forecast update for the 2008 southwest monsoon rainfall over the country as a whole using a 6-parameter ensemble statistical model with a model error of ± 4%.
b) Forecast for the rainfall over the country as a whole in the month of July based on a 6-parameter model, which has a model error of ±9%.
c) Forecasts for the South-west Monsoon season (June-September) rainfall for the following four broad geographical regions of India with a model error of ± 8%:

Northwest India – Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh.
Northeast India – Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar and Jharkhand.
Central India – Gujarat State, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Maharashtra, Goa and Orissa.
South Peninsula – Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The long period average and coefficient of variation of rainfall based on the 1941-1990 data are given below:
Area Long period Average (mm) Coefficient of variation (%)
All India (June to September) 890 10
All India (July) 293 13
NW India 612 19
Central India 994 14
NE India 1429 8
South Peninsula 725 15

3. Experimental Forecasts
IMD has also generated experimental forecast for the 2008 southwest monsoon rainfall based on the IMD’s dynamical forecast system (Seasonal Forecast model of the Experimental Climate Prediction Centre (ECPC), USA). The forecast was generated using observed global sea surface temperature data of May.

In addition, IMD has taken into account the experimental forecasts prepared by national institutes like Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (NCMRWF), Noida, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad, National Aerospace Laboratory (NAL), Bangalore and Centre for Mathematical Modelling and Computer Simulation (CMMACS) Bangalore and operational forecasts prepared by international institutes like the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), USA, International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), USA, Meteorological Office, UK, the European Center for Medium Range Weather Forecasts(ECMWF), UK, the Tokyo Climate Centre (TCC), Japan and the Experimental Climate Prediction Center (ECPC), USA.

Onset and Advance of Monsoon 2008
The onset phase of monsoon was marked by early rains over most parts of the country. Southwest monsoon advanced over south Andaman Sea on 10 May, almost 10 days earlier than the normal date. In the press release issued on 14th May 2008, IMD had predicted that the monsoon onset over Kerala this year would take place on 29th May with a model error of ±4 days. Southwest Monsoon set in over Kerala on 31st May. It rapidly advanced into more parts of southern peninsula and northeast India by 2 June. On 7 June, it further advanced into most parts of Konkan and Goa and north interior Karnataka, some parts of Madhya Maharashtra, Rayalaseema, Telengana, and coastal Andhra Pradesh, sub-Himalayan west Bengal and entire Sikkim. Monsoon advanced into Mumbai city on 7 June, three days earlier than its normal date. By 11 June, monsoon advanced into Gujarat state, Marathawada, Vidarbha, Chattisgarh, and Jharkhand and on 12 June, it advanced into some parts of Madhya Pradesh and east Uttar Pradesh. On 15 June, monsoon advanced into some parts of Rajasthan and west Uttar Pradesh, entire west Madhya Pradesh, some parts of Haryana and entire Punjab. On 16 June, it covered the entire Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. As on 16 June, the northern limit of monsoon passed through 250N/600 E, 250N/650E, Mount Abu, Jaipur, Churu and Sri Ganganagar. Monsoon arrived Delhi on 15 June, almost two weeks earlier than its normal date.

The accumulated seasonal rainfall over the country as a whole during the period 1-29 June was 121% of its long period average.

Conditions over the equatorial Pacific and Indian Oceans
Since October 2007, La Niña conditions prevailed over the equatorial Pacific with colder than normal sea surface temperatures. Between February and April 2008, a gradual weakening of the La Niña event occurred. During the recent weeks, a rapid decay of the cold water including both surface and sub-surface was observed, indicating a possible end of the La Nina event. Climate model forecasts now suggest near-neutral conditions (with sea surface temperatures close to normal) are most likely to prevail during the next 2-3 months. However, some model forecasts suggest that conditions favourable for El Niño may be starting to emerge around September.

It is important to note that other factors like sea surface temperatures over the Indian Ocean also influence Indian monsoon rainfall in addition to El Niño and La Niña. A few climate models suggest possibility of the development of a positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) Recent research studies suggest positive IOD events are favourable for good performance of Indian monsoon, especially during September. IMD is carefully monitoring the equatorial Pacific conditions and the possible evolution of Indian Ocean Dipole structure.

Summary of the forecasts for 2008 southwest monsoon rainfall

i) South-West Monsoon Season Rainfall
IMD’s long range forecast update for the 2008 south-west monsoon season (June to September) is that the rainfall for the country as a whole is likely to be Near Normal. Quantitatively, monsoon season rainfall is likely to be 100% of the long period average with a model error of ±4%. The Long period average rainfall over the country as a whole for the period 1941-1990 is 89 cm.

ii) July rainfall
Rainfall over the country as a whole in the month of July 2008 is likely to be 98% of its LPA with a model error of ± 9 %.

iii) Rainfall over broad geographical regions
Over the four broad geographical regions of the country, rainfall for the 2008 South-West Monsoon Season is likely to be 96% of its LPA over North-West India, 101% of its LPA over North-East India, 101% of its LPA over Central India and 98% of its LPA over South Peninsula, all with a model error of ± 8 %.


{News} 080630 Dipole event prompts monsoon outlook upgrade

Dipole event prompts monsoon outlook upgrade

Vinson Kurian

Thiruvananthapuram, June 30 India Meteorological Department (IMD) has upgraded projections about this year’s monsoon to be 100 per cent of the long-period average (LPA) with a model error of plus or minus 4 per cent.

This would go to make it a ‘normal’ monsoon year and is an improvement on the first long-range forecast made in April that quantified the season to be 99-per cent of LPA or ‘near-normal’.
Releasing its long-term forecast update on Monday, the IMD observed that factors such as sea surface temperatures over the Indian Ocean (resulting in Indian Ocean Dipole, or IOD events) also influence Indian monsoon rainfall in addition to the El Nino or La Nina in the equatorial Pacific.

A few climate models suggest the possibility of development of a positive IOD, which is said to favour good performance of Indian monsoon, especially during September. Equatorial Pacific conditions and the possible evolution of IOD structure are being closely monitored.

In sector-wise forecasts, the IMD expected the monsoon to be 96 per cent of LPA for Northwest India, 101 per cent each in the North-East and Central India, and 98 per cent over the south peninsula, all with a model error of plus or minus 8 per cent.

Separately, it came out with a forecast for the crucial month of July which put the expected realisation around 98 per cent for the country as a whole with a model error of plus or minus 9 per cent. The accumulated seasonal rainfall over the country as a whole during the period June 1-29 is 121 per cent of the LPA.

The IMD has predicted a decrease in rainfall activity over the west coast and central India from July 3 to 5 and a corresponding scale-up in rainfall activity over the Himalayan foothills. Subdued rainfall activity is likely to continue over interior south peninsula.


Sumatra & Java Satellite Images! 30 June 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

{News} 080624 Villagers learn to fight forest fires

Villagers learn to fight forest fires

Benget Besalicto Tnb. , Contributor , Seruyan, Central Kalimantan Tue, 06/24/2008 10:01 AM Environment

The lingering rainy season this year may mean people have forgotten the big problems triggered by forest fires. But the problem is fresh in the mind of Asron.

The 45-year-old recently attended a forest fire awareness training program in Terawan village of Seruyan regency, Central Kalimantan.

"I come from a village behind this club house," he said, referring to an Agro Group's building which is sandwiched between leafy palm oil plantation to the west and sparse forest to the east.
Asron was one out of 200 people taking part in the program jointly organized by the Agro Group, WWF Indonesia, Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (BOS), Care International, Indonesian Council for Palm Oil (DMSI), Association of Indonesian and Malaysian Palm Oil Investors (AIPIMI) and Forestry Ministry's Natural Resources Conservation Board (BKSDA).
Most of the participants live around forests or palm oil plantations in Seruyan and Kotawaringin Timur regencies, Central Kalimantan.

"It's still rainy season, but we've been reminded that sooner or later the dry season will come. That's the time when fires are prone to happen," he said.

Forest fires have turned into an annual disaster across the archipelago, mostly on the islands of Sumatra and Kalimantan, with the most severe ones occuring in 1982-83, 1987, 1991, 1994 and 1997-98.

Forest fires in 1997-98 alone were estimated to have ravaged about 8 million hectares of forest with a total estimated economic loss of US$3 billion.

But the losses do not stop there. The fires also cause health problems, disrupted air and sea transportation, bring haze to neighboring countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong and the Philippines, and damage biodiversity.

The above countries have repeatedly protested Indonesia over the haze engulfing parts of its areas disrupting their air and sea transportation.

During the peak of these forest fires, the media reported that in several cities in Sumatra and Kalimantan many local people suffered from respiratory diseases, forcing the local governments to distribute masks and ban people from going outside their houses.

"It is to help prevent such occurrences that we organize the training," said Sanjay Upasena, the director of sustainability at Argo Group subsidiary Agro Indomas.

He said the training was aimed at increasing awareness and the involvement of the general public, especially locals, in preventing and tackling forest fires.

The training, he said, is also part of his company's corporate social responsibility.
"This training is not just a day to observe the environment. We need to remind people ... that forest fires can cause big problems and have to be prevented," Sanjay said.

The group has also designed a number of environmental and social programs.
"Such programs are particularly important considering the Central Kalimantan province is one of the main hot spots in this country," he said.

According to data from the WWF, during the period of 1997 to 2006 most of the country's hot spots were located in five provinces. The five provinces are Central Kalimantan, the highest with 111,803 hot spots, followed by Riau with 87,572 hot spots, then South Sumatra with 68,129 hot spots, West Kalimantan with 66,691 hot spots and East Kalimantan with 52,644 hot spots.

The conservation group says that last year, the hot spots dropped by about 78 percent, but mostly due to natural factors such as rain. This year, the rainy season still continues in June, the time when the dry season should have already started.

Bahrun, a native of Kalimantan's Dayak tribe who lives in Terawan village of Seruyan regency in Central Kalimantan, said the rainy season would linger longer this year.

"I can assure you that as I've noticed white mushrooms still growing on the roots along the riverbanks here. They are the harbinger of rainy seasons," he said.

"But the white mushrooms will be gone soon. That will be the time when the dry season finally comes. It's the time that we should be vigilant as the forests here are easily razed by fire," he said.

He said he felt happy taking part in the training program and vowed that he would do his best to detect, prevent and tackle forest fires around the village.

"As an ordinary person, I can inform the companies operating around here or the firefighters if I see a fire. Early information will help prevent the fire from spreading."

Considering that forest fires are mostly man-made disasters, people's participation is crucial.
At the training, Seruyan Regent Darwan Ali and Kotawaringin Timur Regent Wahyudi K. Anwar both underlined the importance of such participation.

"Companies alone can not detect all fires. You need to cooperate with locals to detect fires as early as possible so that firefighters can tackle them," Darwan Ali said.


{News} 080622 Money might just grow on trees

Money might just grow on trees

Belinda Lopez , The Jakarta Post , Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan Sun, 06/22/2008 10:44 AM Current Issues

Taking a step into the tropical peat swamp of Central Kalimantan can be a dangerous affair. A firm surface is never guaranteed, and losing your boots in the quicksand-like mud is inevitable -- but the least of your concerns.

There are snakes, spiders and a particularly nasty variety of ant that proved itself talented at getting into one's pants for a salutary welcome bite. Stories of orangutans and hikers will be left to the reader's imagination.

But the alternative to such a thriving forest is a desert-like field of peat, the extinction of Indonesia's array of wildlife and fires that make the country the third highest carbon producer in the world. This too can be found in Central Kalimantan.

It's a situation Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono appear to want to halt. A new agreement signed by the pair last week aims to preserve the forests, and possibly make Indonesia a lot of money in the process.

As part of the Forest Carbon Partnership, signed on June 13 during Rudd's visit to Jakarta, 30 million Australian dollars (US$28.6 million) will be dropped into the forests of Central Kalimantan. It will be used to try and do what has never been done before -- to put a money value on the carbon that has been saved by avoiding deforestation, said development economist and advisor to the ASEAN Centre for Energy, Terry Lacey.

The first Kyoto Protocol narrowly focuses on industrial gas emissions that tend to come from wealthier industrialized countries, while neglecting those caused by forest degradation -- which often occurs in countries under transition, like Indonesia, he said.

But the Kalimantan project could be the first step toward a fairer system of combating climate change. It aims to measure the amount of carbon stored in forests using new technology developed in Australia, which is now considered "best practice" by international standards, according to Prime Minister Rudd.

Until now, measuring the amount of carbon in forests has been a rather rudimentary practice, despite deforestation accounting for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But once the amount of carbon in Kalimantan is measured, it could be tendered on the emerging carbon market, Lacey said.

It means Indonesia stands to potentially raise a lot of money by preserving its forests; that is if its most permeating problems -- corruption and bureaucratic incompetence -- do not get in the way.

When former president Suharto's government cleared the middle of Kalimantan in 1996 for the Mega Rice Project, it overlooked a minor, but crucial, detail -- that peat is too acidic for rice to grow in. By then a million hectares of forest had been culled and 4,600 kilometers of wide canals built.

What was left after the canals drained the water from the formerly boggy rainforest was a desert-like layer of highly flammable peat as topsoil. The next year fires raged through the former forests, contributing to between 15 to 40 percent of 1997's global CO2 emissions, Wetlands International found.

Residents in the Central Kalimantan town of Palangkaraya still endure the consequences of annual fires. For three months of the year, smoke encases the town like a bitter fog.

"Nobody goes outside, nobody goes anywhere", residents say of the "smoke months", again and again. Life stops, as peat burns for meters underground.

The University of Palangkaraya's Dr Suwido Limin was among the scientists who watched in horror as Suharto set about destroying forest to plant rice that was never going to grow.
A weathered environmental warrior for the university's Center for International Co-operation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland, Suwido, is very familiar with the paradox of forest preservation, Indonesian-style.

He believes things are "getting worse". Regulations that forbid timber, oil, palm and pulp (acacia) plantations from over-clearing might exist on paper, but the hundreds of companies working there are all guilty of ignoring them, he said.

The problem is only made worse by small groups of Indonesians from outside Kalimantan coming in to carry out illegal logging and trafficking of orangutans and other wildlife.

The big, gaping canals dug in to drain the muddy forest to grow rice have since been blocked up to allow the forest to regenerate, but illegal loggers regularly break the dams in order to float boats down the artificial rivers, leaving the peat to dry out and burn once again.

A fiercely proud Dayak, Suwido's own approach to forest preservation has been firmly grassroots. He has implemented a program where local families are paid for the amount of trees they regenerate over 10, 20, 30 years -- helping people living near the forest make a living from it without destroying it.

But Suwido said the Indonesian government -- on a local, regional and national level -- was not listening.

"Their mentality is more difficult to change; we need to find a new strategy, new people and a new generation. If they put new people in the government, in the parliament, in the local offices, it would help. People have been there too long."

A staff member of the Australian government department AusAID, which will partly manage the Kalimantan project, said the way to avoid corruption was "through transparency and openness in the way we manage projects and do business".

The staff member was able to speak with The Jakarta Post on the condition of anonymity, as per department "practice".

He said a draft local anti-corruption for development plan for 2008- 2013 is scheduled to be made public in July to guide future projects like Kalimantan, which will be subject to independent financial and quality auditing.

"We will look at the quality of all projects. The money trail may look fine but quality can be a let down."

AusAID prefers to engage with local governments and communities in its development projects, rather than solely using Australian or international organizations to get the job done, he said.
"You do come face to face with issues of corruption, but isolating yourself from it is not the way to help change things ... for local development and the local community."


{News} 080619 Forestry Ministry asks Japan to check air quality

Forestry Ministry asks Japan to check air quality

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Thu, 06/19/2008 9:59 AM

Indonesia has challenged Japanese scientists to check the balance between the amount of fresh oxygen produced by Indonesia's protected forests, and amounts of forest fire haze affecting neighboring countries.

This information could be an important way to counter repeated international protests over haze problems, the Forestry Ministry claimed in a dialog on research cooperation between Indonesia and Japan, here Wednesday.

"We need to conduct research to check the balance between the 'amounts' of haze and fresh oxygen 'sent' by Indonesian forests to neighboring countries," the ministry forest fire prevention unit chief, Herman Prayitno, said.

"We need this data to create a balanced view," he said, "which would show that our forests also create fresh oxygen and could improve our bargaining position in responding to protests from countries affected by the haze".

Indonesia has the largest area of forest in the region, with some 120 million hectares of tropical forests. However, annual forest fire smoke causing massive amounts of air pollution has prompted protests from the Singaporean and Malaysian governments.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized to Indonesia's neighbors for the 2006 haze incidents, the second most severe after the 1997 haze disaster which blanketed Singapore and Malaysia.

Responding to the ministry's request, a Japanese researcher said it was a matter of technology to "calculate" amounts of smoke from forest fires.

"It is, of course, a difficult task, but it is possible with technology," Hirotaka Ochiai, Principle Research Coordinator at Japan's Forestry Agency, told The Jakarta Post.

The best way to reduce forest fires, he said, would be through the REDD scheme, the much-debated mechanism of reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation by providing incentives to parties which protect forests.

"Forest fires are strongly related to the REDD concept. The carbon credits from REDD could also be used to fund forest fire prevention and improve the welfare of the communities living near forests," he said.

However, Ochiai said, carbon prices through the REDD mechanism should be higher than from aforestation or reforestation projects which are currently worth around US$3 per ton of carbon.
Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia, Kojiro Shiojiri, praised Indonesian efforts to reduce the number of forest fire hot spots over the last two years.

"Much progress has been made in dealing with forest fires. As a result, I understand the incidence of the forest fires in Indonesia were reduced by 70 percent in 2007," he said.
"The haze disasters have been predominantly caused by land-clearing method locals use to gain land for agriculture, quickly and cheaply. This method has been passed down from generation to generation," Forestry Minister Malam Sambat Ka'ban said.

The governments of Japan and Indonesia set aside Rp 400 million (US$43,011) for forest fire prevention this year. Japan awarded a grant of *300 million (US$2.76 million) for training and forest fire prevention last year.

The project targeted some of the most vulnerable forests in North Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, South Sumatra, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan, South Kalimantan and South Sulawesi.


{News} 080527 Using human rights to combat palm oil's hazards

Using human rights to combat palm oil's hazards

Irene Hadiprayitno , Utrecht Tue, 05/27/2008 3:16 PM Opinion

The palm oil industry is not only popular in the discourse of biofuels, but it is also economically lucrative.

In Indonesia alone the industry covers 17 provinces, employing about 2 million workers. The industry has generated an income amounting to Rp 7.779 million.

However, while examining the situation at the grassroots level, the effect is to the contrary, rather than improving it is victimizing.

Millions of hectares of tropical forests have been burned to make way for oil palm plantations; an annual haze is being experienced by people living in the vicinity. According to Sawit Watch, Indonesia has increased its palm estates to 7.3 million hectares and is planning to expand the area by a further 20 million hectares -- an area the size of England, the Netherlands and Switzerland combined.

Moreover, the industry is also notoriously known as the cause of local conflicts. In January 2008, Sawit Watch monitored 513 conflicts between communities and companies. Some of these conflicts can be traced back to earlier land disputes. Mostly, they are over land rights, but other disputes arise over compensation, unmet promises and smallholding arrangements.

The industry has also caused displacement, homelessness and morbidity. In Aceh, 360,000 people were displaced from their homes and 70 died as a result of floods in 2006, which have been a common problem in the region since oil palm plantations arrived.

At the grassroots level, regardless of how important the palm oil is for biodiesel production, the rising price does not affect peasants' income. Their salaries remain determined by the regional minimum wage scheme. In the case of North Barito, Central Kalimantan, one of the prominent palm oil plantations, it is only Rp. 876,536, an unreasonable amount compared to the selling price of crude palm oil, which was US$1135 per metric ton on Jan. 15, 2008.

Ideally, development should imply a structural improvement to people's ability to sustain their daily livelihoods. Indeed, not only are economies to be uplifted, but the people themselves. Thus, both living standards and capabilities of those living at the grassroots should increase.

When designing a policy, a primary concern should be how to protect those affected by the consequences and, in particular, how to secure their entitlements within the execution of development policies. It is here we touch upon internationally accepted human rights standards and procedures. Human rights pertaining to each and every human being constitutes a necessity for protecting people against hazards.

When combating hazards caused by the palm oil industry, one can refer to the United Nations' Declaration on the Right to Development adopted by the General Assembly in 1986. The declaration defines the right to development as an inalienable human right by virtue.

Accordingly, every human and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development so that all human rights and fundamental freedoms can be fully realized.

Obviously, development is seen here as a process that encompasses economic, social, cultural and political aspects. This implies a structural uplifting of welfare and well-being, affecting not just infrastructure, but also human beings.

The declaration regards those affected by development policies as right-holders who have to be protected against losing their entitlements, a common situation in development hazards. Accordingly, the right to development requires adopting favorable measures for development beneficiaries in the development process and for development victims to seek claims for compensation from development hazards.

The Indonesian government is responsible for implementing the right to development. However, rather than eradicating the hazard, they continues to comply with other interests rather than people. There are no appropriate measures allocated to deal with homelessness, degradation of health, morbidity or social conflict.

Instead the government recently adopted a forestry law, which provides a broad license for companies to exploit protected forests as long as they are willing to pay annual rental fees ranging between Rp 1.2 million (US$125) and Rp 3 million per hectare. Notably, the law prioritizes companies over people, who are now more vulnerable to development hazards.
In the case of the palm oil industry, the Indonesian government not only denies access to compensation, but also fails to protect and respect peoples' entitlements by not taking actions to eradicate the hazards and adopting disincentive regulations.

Using human rights to combat hazards caused by the palm oil industry entails protecting people during the process and ensuring fairness in development distribution. From the peoples' perspective, this grants opportunities for legitimate claims addressing correlated obligations or duties. Thus, it stresses the opportunity to seek remedies and compensation in the case of development hazards.


{News} 080524 Malaysia to train Indonesian farmers to avoid forest fires

Malaysia to train Indonesian farmers to avoid forest fires

The Associated Press , Kuala Lumpur Sat, 05/24/2008 4:11 PM World

Malaysia will advise Indonesian farmers on how to avoid starting forest fires when they clear land as part of efforts to curb the smoky cross-border haze released nearly every year, a news report said Saturday.

Malaysian Environment Minister Douglas Unggah Embas said his country will sign a pact with Indonesia next month to boost anti-haze cooperation, which will include training Indonesian farmers to practice controlled burning instead of slash-and-burn activities.

"We (will) either train Indonesians in their country or bring them here for training," Embas was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

Ministry officials who could comment on the issue were not immediately available. The report quoted Embas as saying that Malaysia expects to spend 2 million ringgit (US$620,000) to conduct the training.

Officials from both countries have warned people to brace for hazy pollution, especially between July and September, partly because of changing weather patterns.

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand have complained since 1997 about haze drifting from Indonesia, where annual fires are started as part of seasonal land-clearing, especially on Sumatra island and in Kalimantan on Borneo island.

The smog causes health problems and losses amounting to billions of dollars (euros) from lost tourism revenue and flight delays, among other things.

Indonesia has argued it lacks the money and technical expertise to prevent or control the fires in the vast archipelago nation.

Officials have previously said Malaysia will also help Indonesia set up an early warning system for forest fires and boost land management.


{News} 080525 Major forest fires in sight as more hotspots detected

Major forest fires in sight as more hotspots detected

Adianto P. Simamora , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Sun, 05/25/2008 12:01 PM

Indonesia has been placed on alert for widespread forest fires, with satellite images showing a rise in the number of hotspots in the past three weeks.

The U.S. National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration satellite has detected about 555 hotspots in Riau alone in the past 32 days, Dedi Hariri, the forest fire monitoring officer at the World Wildlife Fund Indonesia, said Saturday.

A hotspot is a fire covering at least one hectare.
"The number of hotspots has grown really quickly because of the long-standing problem of massive slash-and-burn practices by farmers, timber firms and plantation companies," Dedi told The Jakarta Post.

As of Saturday, the number of hotspots in West Kalimantan had reached 339, while the numbers detected in West Sumatra and North Sumatra had risen to 200 and 67, respectively.
Riau Governor Rusli Zaenal has called for the implementation of measures to prepare for large-scale forest fires, particularly on the province's 4.04 million hectares of peatland, which is most prone to the annual disaster.

He also asked the police to arrest "anyone caught in the act of playing with fire".
The governor said forest fire monitoring and prevention officers, right down to the district level, should be ready for the fires.

An official with the North Sumatra Meteorology and Geophysics Agency (BMG), Firman, said haze from forest fires in Riau and North Sumatra had reduced visibility, although it had not disrupted flights.

"The haze came from Riau and Jambi, where forest fires are raging. The number of hotspots fell this week, but North Sumatra remains susceptible to haze," he said.

Forest fires in West Kalimantan reduced visibility in the provincial capital of Pontianak early this week. Flights were suspended in Supadio airport for five hours for safety reasons as visibility dropped to 800 meters.

"Rain rarely falls in the dry season, so the situation could get worse," head of provincial environment control Tri Budiarto said.

BMG has predicted this year's dry season will be drier than last year's.
Dedi urged the government to respond quickly to the satellite findings and prioritize preventive measures.

"Anticipation is crucial in preventing a recurrence of the massive 2006 forest fires," he said, recalling the disaster that drew strong protests from Malaysia and Singapore.
With about 145,000 hotspots detected, the forest fires in 2006 were the country's second worst after the 1997 disaster.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono apologized to neighboring countries for the 2006 fires.
The government promised during the UN climate change conference last December to halve the number of hotspots.

Malaysia has committed to help Indonesian farmers practice safer farming methods to help curb forest fires.

The Malaysian environment minister, Douglas Unggah Embas, said the two countries would sign a memorandum of understanding by June to enable Malaysian experts to assist farmers in fire-prone Riau.

"Among the programs lined up after the MOU is signed are capacity building to help them achieve their zero-burning target, rehabilitation of burned peatland and development of an early haze warning system," the minister was quoted as saying by AFP.

Indonesia is currently striving to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, mostly from forest fires, to help tackle climate change.

The WWF said about 10 million hectares of forest were burned in the 1997 forest fires, releasing about 2.57 gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, making Indonesia the world's third-largest emitter after the United States and China.

Nurni Sulaiman, Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap contributed to this article from Pontianak, Medan and Pekanbaru, respectively.


{News} 090522 North Sumatra again blanketed in haze

North Sumatra again blanketed in haze

Apriadi Gunawan and Rizal Harahap , The Jakarta Post , Medan, Pekanbaru Thu, 05/22/2008

Choking haze from forest fires in Riau and Jambi has blanketed North Sumatra for several days and threatens to spread to neighboring countries.
Based on reports from the Meteorological and Geophysics Agency (BMG), the haze has reduced visibility to between three and five kilometers since May 18, from around 8 km previously, but has yet to disrupt flight schedules thus far.
The recent poor visibility in North Sumatra was attributed to haze from forest fires in Riau and Jambi, BMG Medan data division head Firman said.
Riau and Jambi contributed most to the situation despite the declining number of hotspots recorded in Sumatra over the past week, he said.
"Based on satellite images, we recorded 372 hotspots in Sumatra on May 17. This number had decreased to 207 the following day, and had further declined to 97 by May 20, but most of these were in Riau and Jambi," Firman told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
Firman predicted that North Sumatra would be likely to experience choking haze until early June.
In Pekanbaru, Riau, the current intense heat in the lead-up to the dry season has raised concerns over the intensity of forest and peatland fires.
Riau Governor Rusli Zainal has alerted relevant agencies and the provincial population to prepare to prevent the spread of forest and peatland fires.
"The current extreme weather conditions in Riau could pose a hazard for the 4.044 million hectares of peatland -- around 56.1 percent of the total Riau area.
"The risk of forest and peatland fires will continue until serious efforts are made to prevent and mitigate them," Rusli said.
Rusli called on regency and city administrations to revitalize forest fire mitigation posts up to a district level.
Rusli said these posts could serve as a spearhead to further educate people from engaging in slash and burn methods to clear land.
"We have also urged police to take stern actions against people caught starting fires in forests," he said.
It is vital to prevent the recurring haze problem, Rusli said, because it could taint the image of the province.
"Riau has often become the subject of public attention as a producer of haze," he said, "so we must make strenuous efforts to prevent it."
The Riau provincial administration, as well as the forestry, agriculture and environment ministers, have made a commitment with 80 companies in the province to work together to prevent and fix the haze problem.
"These companies are committed to not resort to burning forests or peatland around their concession areas. They are also obliged to help with efforts to extinguish fires in their areas," he said.
Pekanbaru BMG analysis division head Aristya Ardhitama said haze had developed in a number of areas in Riau and could potentially spread to neighboring countries.
"Given the current wind patterns, the haze in Riau has the potential to blow toward the Malacca Strait," he said.
Riau Natural Resource Conservation Center head Rachman Siddik regretted the lack efforts made by agencies responsible to extinguish the fires.
"The administration should have set an alert status for forest fires mitigation, but so far these agencies have done nothing," Rachman said.


{News} 080531 'Ocean fertilisation' or extreme pollution?

'Ocean fertilisation' or extreme pollution?

JULIO GODOY BONN, GERMANY - May 30 2008 16:05
Mail & Guardian Online

When some multinational companies dump chemicals into the sea, they call it "ocean fertilisation". This practice is near the top of the agenda at the United Nations conference on biological diversity in Bonn that ends on Friday.

"Ocean fertilisation simply means dumping into the ocean particles of iron, nitrogen or urea allegedly to transform the ecological balance of particular marine habitats, to encourage additional phytoplankton growth, and increase absorption of carbon dioxide," says Saskia Richartz, ocean expert at Greenpeace.

Practically all developing countries want the UN conference to approve a global moratorium on ocean fertilisation until scientific evidence can prove that the practice does not bring new pollution risks. But some industrialised countries, led by Australia, want to avoid a strong ban.
Phytoplankton collectively account for half of the carbon dioxide absorbed annually from the Earth's atmosphere by plants. Through photosynthesis, plankton capture carbon and sunlight for growth, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

The supposedly scientific hypothesis behind ocean fertilisation is that dumping "nutrients" such as iron, nitrogen and urea into seawater would lead to growth of new phytoplankton that would absorb more carbon dioxide, thus reducing the main cause of global warming and climate change.
"The problem is, there is no sound scientific evidence that this would actually happen," Richartz says. "On the contrary, ocean fertilisation could have negative side effects that would lead to further loss of marine biodiversity."

Since 1978, 12 international projects have tried to prove the hypothesis of "ocean nourishment" with no success, says Silvia Ribeiro, an environmental researcher with the Canada-based Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC).

According to ETC research, most of the additional carbon dioxide absorbed by phytoplankton appears to be released back into the environment when the plankton die, or are eaten by marine creatures.

Other risks include reduction of oxygen levels beneath the sea surface caused by the degradation of plankton, resulting in excess production of methane, another strong greenhouse gas responsible for global warming and climate change.

Ocean fertilisation could also modify marine ecosystems in uncontrollable ways by inducing changes in the food chain in localised marine biological habitats.

"One consequence of iron-induced blooms could be the consumption and depletion of other vital nutrients that would reduce plankton productivity and carbon absorption in other areas of the seas, with unknown effects in other ecosystems," Ribeiro says.

Yet another risk is the artificial growth of harmful algae, which produce toxins associated with the poisoning of fish and other sea life.

Richartz says that the debate at the UN conference has been controversial. "Brazilian delegates have been cooperating with Australia in order to avoid a moratorium on ocean fertilisation."
On May 26, the Brazilian delegation "presented an extreme unacceptable proposal on the moratorium, with the only ostensible objective of making the Australian position appear moderate", Richartz says.

But within hours, Brazil withdrew the proposal. "The debates within the Brazilian delegation were very loud," Richartz says. This was confirmed by Brazilian NGO representatives.
Ribeiro says that "what Australia wants on ocean fertilisation is obvious. It wants that the UN convention on biological diversity does not touch the subject, and transfer it instead to the London Convention" on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter.

One reason for Australia to want that is that the UN convention would approve a global binding set of rules ratified by 191 countries, while the London convention has 88 parties.
In addition, the London convention is being updated through the London protocol, which will eventually replace the former. Under the new protocol, all dumping is prohibited except for acceptable waste on the "reserve list". But this protocol has been ratified by still fewer countries, 34.

The leading global company in the business is the Australia-based Ocean Nourishment Corporation (ONC). The Australian government's support for the company and for ocean fertilisation has won it the Greenpeace nomination for the Golden Chain Saw Award for the worst polluters.

The ONC is currently planning to dump hundreds of tonnes of industrially produced urea, most likely into the Sulu Sea between the Philippines and Borneo. The dumping of urea could imperil the local marine environment -- the main source of livelihood for the poor fisher population in the Philippines.

Besides the ONC, a handful of private companies, all registered in the United States, are planning to launch ocean-fertilisation projects in unregulated high seas after specific projects in the Philippines, Ecuador, Oman and Morocco provoked a storm of complaints from civil society groups.

Environmentalists say the UN conference should approve a global moratorium and ban the granting of carbon credits for ocean carbon sequestration, tradable at the carbon-exchange mechanisms created by the Kyoto protocol on climate change. -- IPS


Vietnam Satellite Images! 29 June 2008

Sumatra and Java Satellite Images! 29 June 2008

Friday, June 27, 2008

{News} 071018 Rough Weather

Rough Weather

The Indian monsoon cycles are more vulnerable to climate change than previously thought, a new study shows. From eastern Africa to Australia, this may mean drought in some areas and more flooding in others.

Rebecca Hall
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 12:00 PM ET Oct 18, 2007

The Indian monsoon has always been a matter of intense interest to farmers on the subcontinent because it brings the summer rains, which account for 80 percent of annual rainfall. The phenomenon also drives weather patterns for a vast region that stretches from eastern Africa to Indonesia. Now scientists have found that global warming may have a much bigger impact on this key driver of Asian weather than previously thought. In a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers have now found that the climate system in the entire region is tightly linked to water temperatures in the Indian Ocean. This means that as global temperatures rise, Asia will undergo an upheaval in climate patterns, causing chronic droughts in some places and increased flooding in others. The key mechanism behind this change is the so-called Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD)—an annual event in which warm and cold water change places in the Indian Ocean, causing an east-west flip in wind direction, triggering the monsoons.

NEWSWEEK’s Rebecca Hall spoke by phone with Nerilie J. Abram, a climate scientist at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge, England, who led the research team from the Australian National University about the implications. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What exactly is the Indian Ocean Dipole?

Nerilie J. Abram: The easiest way to think of it is the Indian Ocean’s equivalent of El Niño. It has a dramatic impact on the climate around the Indian Ocean but also has the potential to impact places further a field, as well. When the temperature changes its direction, the eastern Indian Ocean, normally the warmest side, becomes cold, and the western Indian Ocean becomes warm. That flip also means that the wind direction changes. Essentially, it is a reversal of the temperature gradient and wind direction.

Your research focused on coral. What does that have to do with monsoons in Asia?

Corals contain an amazing record of past climate. As corals grow they gain a band each year, kind of like how a tree has a ring for every year that it grows. We looked at that in great detail and measured the chemistry of the coral skeleton. This gave us a record for the ocean temperature that the coral was growing in. Additionally, it provided a measure of how much rainfall was being received. We were able to look at the temperature and the rainfall signals together in great detail, almost up to a weekly resolution. We can do this on corals that are currently living in the reef as well as fossil corals that provide snapshots in time of what the climate was like, at a weekly resolution, 6,000 years ago.

What is so interesting about 6,000 years ago?

We wanted to look at how the Indian Ocean Dipole operated about 6,000 years ago because we know that the Asian monsoon was much stronger then than it is currently. That might be partly analogous to the changes we are going to see in the future, because the monsoon is increasing, and that increase is predicted to continue because of global warming in the coming century. We wanted to determine if there were differences in the IOD from what we see now and what was recorded in the corals 6,000 years ago.

What did you find?

It has been known for a while that monsoons are going to increase and instrumental records are supporting this. The immediate implication is that the areas that receive monsoon rainfall will become wetter in the future. But our research also shows that it will have knock-on effects [a domino effect] in other parts of the climate system. As the Asian monsoon increases, it will produce greater and more widespread climate events than what we have previously imagined. For example, an IOD event will have a very dramatic effect on the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean. Indonesia will suffer massive droughts and wild fires. The drought will also extend into parts of Australia, and there will be flooding in eastern Africa.

How is this likely to affect the region?

When we looked at the timing of the droughts that happened 6,000 years ago, they had shifted to a different time of the year. So evidence of a strong cooling in the eastern Indian Ocean had a very strong drought to go with it. As a result of the shift, the maximum drought occurred in the month when the region would normally receive the most rainfall. You can imagine that as the Asian monsoon strengthens, we may get a similar shift in the timing of the droughts. This could have major implications for agriculture in this area. How farmers deal with the IOD now may not be the same way they will need to in the future. And the actual impact it has on their lives may become more severe if a drought cuts into what should be their peak rainfall period.

Is this a result of increasing global warming?

IOD is a natural phenomenon, and through the work we have done on the corals we can see that IOD events have happened naturally, going back at least 6,000 years but probably much longer. Like El Niño and monsoons, they are natural features of the climate, but we are trying to understand how it will change as a result of global warming.

Will your examination of the past assist others in predicting future weather patterns?

By looking at the past, we tried to get some more information about how these different tropical climate systems affect each other. Knowing that one part is changing, we can see how that might have a knock-on effect and influence another part of the climate system. The team is continuing to research the IOD because there is still a lot to learn. They are working in other parts of Indonesia to really start piecing together how the El Niño southern oscillation, as well as monsoons, fit into the whole story. We want to understand how those climatic impacts might change as global warming changes our climate.

Do IOD events become more severe when combined with El Niño?

The research into the IOD is still very much in its infancy, as it was only discovered in 1999. Monsoons and El Niño have benefited from many decades of research so we know a lot more about how they operate. El Niño has repercussions all around the world. It affects climate from Antarctica to Europe. One thing we do know is that if we have an El Niño event at the same time as an IOD event, the IOD acts to accentuate the climate features of El Niño. When they coincide, we end up with much stronger climate features than what we would ordinarily expect. This is adding a new piece to the puzzle that we didn’t know before.


Sulu Sea Satellite Images! 27 June 2008

Northern Borneo Satellite Images! 27 June 2008

Sumatra and Java Satellite Images! 27 June 2008

{News} 080627 Rain outlook bleak for winter months

Rain outlook bleak for winter months

Fairfax Media, 27/06/2008 8:49:00 AM

BENDIGO has received only 60 per cent of its average rainfall for the first half of the year and the outlook is bleak. But the prospects of a wet winter after a dry autumn are diminishing with the latest Bureau of Meteorology rainfall outlook predicting only a 35 to 40 per cent chance of average rainfall over the nest three months.
The six-month total of 128mm of rain - the second lowest in the past 16 years - is a bad start to the year where inflows into the Murray River systems, including the Campaspe, Loddon and Coliban catchments are again under pressure.
Coliban Water continues to use water from the Goulburn system and the Superpipe to supply Bendigo, enabling reserves at the Lauriston Reservoir to remain about 40 per cent and its overall storages at 13.4 per cent more than twice last year’s level.
But good above average rains in May and July last year helped build these water reserves, a situation the bureau outlook indicates is less probable for the remainder of winter 2008.
Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Andrew Watkins said the outlook was showing strong indicators for both a drier and warmer than average winter and early spring.
Dr Watkins said while Pacific Ocean temperature patterns, which influence La Nina and El Nino events remained neutral, the outlook was being driven in part by temperature anomalies in the Indian Ocean.
He said cooler than average ocean temperatures south of Indonesia and warmer temperatures elsewhere in the ocean were affecting moist rain-laden north-west cloud bands that would normally bring rain through autumn and winter.
"That change in the Indian Ocean means it is harder for these systems to form," he said.
"We are seeing a pattern with stronger signals for this time of year and while we are not quite seeing a positive Indian Ocean Dipole, some models lean towards that."
But he said this phenomenon did not explain other factors affecting rainfall including a tendency for western winds and cold fronts to slide further south and miss the Australian mainland. In addition the frequency of La Nina events over the past 10 years was another factor influencing Australian rainfall.
"So in a sense we are getting hit by this triple whammy,"
Dr Watkins said He said the real impact of climate change on rainfall was being felt not in single extreme years, but in consecutive below-average rainfall years.
The Bureau of Meteorology is teaming with CSIRO and federal and state governments on a three-year $7 million climate investigation into factors such as the loss of ozone over Antarctica and how these complex factors contribute to denude the Murray Darling Basin of rainfall.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

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