El Nino shift to worsen rains, floods

By Gia Chinh   May 10, 2024 | 03:15 pm PT
El Nino shift to worsen rains, floods
Wood and trees, swept away by a flood, surround a house in Quang Tri in central Vietnam in Oct. 27, 2020. Photo by VnExpress/Hoang Tao
Rains and floods in the coming months may be as severe as they were in 2020, when they claimed the lives of around 291 people in central Vietnam.

At a Friday conference on natural disaster prevention, search and rescue, Hoang Duc Cuong, deputy head of the Vietnam Meteorological and Hydrological Administration at the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment, said the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, referring to variations in equatorial seawater temperatures, has maintained a neutral state since June.

However, starting later this summer, from July-September, the ENSO phenomenon is expected to shift to La Nina, and may maintain such a course until the end of the year, Cuong said.

This means that as seawater temperatures change, the shift will push drought, flood, hail and other hazardous weather conditions in Vietnam this year to disaster-prone 2020 levels, he said.

Specifically, storms would come later in the year, but they would be more frequent and within a shorter time frame, according to Cuong.

Meteorological agencies are expecting 11-13 storms and tropical depressions on the East Sea, also known as the South China Sea, this year, with 5-7 of them affecting the mainland of Vietnam.

Until mid-June, the chance of tropical depressions and storms appearing is unlikely. Instead, they would appear most frequently in the latter half of the stormy season, from September to November this year.

Due to storms and tropical depressions, rain levels in the latter half of this year are expected to be higher than the average levels in previous years. Heavy rains are likely to be concentrated in the final months of the year in central Vietnam.

Amid such warnings, deputy prime minister Tran Luu Quang has requested sectors and localities to prepare response measures for the shift from El Nino to La Nina. Meteorological agencies also need to bolster forecast capabilities so that authorities can implement proper instructions to prevent natural disasters.

In 2020, in a span of just over a month (from Oct. 11 to Nov. 15), central Vietnam faced eight brutal storms and two tropical depressions. The Molave typhoon, which made landfall in areas from Quang Nam to Quang Ngai, produced strong winds that lasted six hours. It was the strongest storm seen in Vietnam in 20 years.

Natural disasters claimed the lives of 291 people in 2020, and rendering 64 other missing. Over 336,400 houses were damaged, along with hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops and millions of poultry and cattle. Economic damage totaled over VND35.18 trillion ($1.38 billion), seven times that in 2021, and four times that of 2023.

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