El Nino behind historic drought in Mekong Delta ends, La Nina to follow

By Reuters, VnExpress International   May 26, 2016 | 03:39 am PT
El Nino behind historic drought in Mekong Delta ends, La Nina to follow
Clouds over West Lake. Photo by: VnExpress/Tomas Slavicek
The strongest El Nino in nearly 20 years, which has damaged crop production in Asia and caused food shortages, has ended, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) said on Tuesday.

Climate indicators associated with El Nino have now returned to neutral levels, the BOM said. The end of El Nino was not unexpected with climate indicators cooling in recent months, but Australia's BOM is the first major meteorology agency to declare the end of El Nino.

According to Vietnam’s National Centre for Hydro-Meteorological Forecasting (NCHMF), the rain pattern in Vietnam is expected to return to normal in September and October, and may even be 5-15 percent higher than the average level.

But during the summer, rainfall could remain significantly below average in the central part of the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and southeastern Myanmar, according to AccruWeather.

The NCHMF forecasts that the south-central coastal provinces of Ninh Thuan and Binh Thuan will continue to experience significantly less precipitation and prolonged drought through September, while rivers in the central and central highland areas will drop further with average water levels 30-60 percent lower than in previous years. The center also forecasts a very low chance of flooding later on this year, so lower sections of many rivers may fall to record lows.

However, by the end of 2016, farmers will be looking for the development of a La Nina weather pattern, which typically brings wetter weather across the Asian region. The chance of La Nina is at 50 percent, the Australian weather bureau said, while Vietnam’s NCHMF says the phenomenon is “likely to occur.”

"Because of this [La Nina] and other factors, we expect rainfall to return toward average over a large part of India, Malaysia and Indonesia," said AccuWeather Chief International Meteorologist Jason Nicholls. But “if La Nina conditions develop more quickly, then rainfall could trend to well above average in some areas."

On May 24-25, Hanoi experienced the largest rainfall (200mm) to be recorded in May over the last 10 years, according to Le Thanh Hai, deputy director general of NCHMF. The rain caused severe inundation in southern and south-western Hanoi.

The latest El Nino resulted in sea temperatures rising to their highest levels in 19 years, causing drier than average weather which resulted in a fall in production of wheat, palm oil and rice in Asia. Vietnam has seen the worst drought and severe salinity in almost 100 years that have led the country to call on the international community to support a $48.5 million emergency response plan.

El Nino and La Nina are complex weather patterns resulting from variations in ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean that contribute to changes in weather patterns across the Pacific, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States.

For Vietnam, which is situated in the Southeast Asian monsoon zone, El Nino normally results in drier and hotter weather conditions than usual, while La Nina often brings more rain to the region.

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