Philippines cyclone build-up may blow smog back to Malaysia

PETALING JAYA - A potential cyclone building up on the eastern side of the Philippines is likely to pull winds, bringing the haze back from Indonesia to Malaysia.

This is expected to happen from tomorrow and could last until early next month, based on how strong the cyclone turns out to be.

A low-pressure area, otherwise known as a potential cyclone, was currently forming in the east of the Philippines, said MeteorĀ­ological Department spokesperson Dr Hisham Mohd Anip.

"The reason the wind will turn back from the south is because of the development of the tropical cyclone.

"The wind will carry the haze back to Malaysia," he told The Star via WhatsApp.

When asked how long this could last, he said it could be up to early October depending on the strength of the cyclone and the number of fires raging in Indonesia.

Dr Hisham said even without the formation of a cyclone, the low-pressure area would still result in a change of wind direction, bringing the haze back.

The number of areas with unhealthy air pollution index readings had dropped over the past two days, thanks to winds blowing the smog westward from hotspots in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Haze maps on the ASEAN Specialised Meteorological Centre website showed that winds blowing north-east towards Malaysia on Sept 14 changed to move south-west five days later.

Dense haze was recorded in Central Kalimantan on Sept 19, with moderate haze blowing over much of Sumatra, avoiding Malaysia and Singapore entirely.

Much of the country had clean air yesterday, especially in Sabah and Sarawak, with the highest pollution reading recorded in Seri Manjung in Perak (93) at 1pm.

The air quality improved with 10 areas recording healthy levels from 7am.

According to the Department of Environment's portal, the three new areas with good air quality were Tanjung Malim in Perak with an API reading of (48), Kuching (50) and Sibu (50).

An API reading of 0 to 50 indicates good air quality; 51 to 100, moderate; 101 to 200, unhealthy; 201 to 300, very unhealthy and 300 and above, hazardous.

Dr Hisham said rain also helped to wash away the haze, adding that there would also be less rainfall.

"It's difficult to say how much but less rain can definitely be expected until the end of next week," he said.

He said this was because moisture from nearby regions would be drawn out towards the low-pressure area in the east of the Philippines.

He said the region's inter-monsoon period, which usually meant wetter weather, had already started but was "disturbed" by the potential cyclone phenomenon.

A Natural Resources and EnvironĀ­ment Ministry statement said satellites had spotted 125 fire hotspots in Sumatra and only 30 in Kalimantan because of poor coverage.

Four hotspots were located in Malaysia - Kelantan (2), Pahang (1) and Johor (1).