S'pore in midst of record dry spell

The Botanic Gardens is looking like this (picture) because little rain has fallen in Singapore for 27 consecutive days from Jan 13 to Feb 8.

The nearly month-long dry spell goes down in history as the country's worst since extensive data recording began five decades ago, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA).

The previous record, an 18-day dry spell, was in 2008. The dry weather is "likely to persist into the first half of March", the NEA predicted, which could set another record. The Meteorological Service Singapore defines a dry spell as a period of more than 14 days with less than 1mm of rain.

Drier weather is common at the end of the north-east monsoon, usually from February until early March.

The recent lack of rain is in part because the dry phase of the north-east monsoon set in during the middle of January, earlier than usual, the NEA has said. Just 75.4mm of rain last month and 0.2mm this month to date was recorded at NEA's Changi climate station, compared to the long-term averages of 242.4mm and 161mm respectively.

"This is definitely out of the ordinary," said National University of Singapore weather researcher Winston Chow. But "abnormal" and extreme weather patterns like this could be more common in the long term due to climate change, he added.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned of the same in its latest report last year, which drew from the conclusions of scientists and politicians from 195 countries.

"The concern is that these uncommon weather events may be happening more frequently sooner rather than later," said Professor Chow. He noted that in recent months, the United States has been hit by unusually freezing weather, Australia by extreme heat and Britain by devastating storms and floods.

The NEA also said "climate change increases the risks of both wetter and drier extremes", but that further studies were needed to investigate exactly how this would affect Singapore.

National water agency PUB has been pumping 20 to 25 million gallons of Newater a day since late last month into reservoirs to maintain their water levels.

Last week, it raised this to 30 million gallons, a spokesman said.