PAGASA warns of possible La Niña by end of 2016

MANILA, Philippines – After experiencing drought due to El Niño, the Philippines might be facing La Niña soon.

On Wednesday, May 18, state weather bureau PAGASA released a statement saying that it has activated its La Niña Watch.

La Niña is a weather phenomenon characterized by unusually cool ocean surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific.

According to PAGASA, there is a 50% chance of La Niña occurring by the end of the year, as the current El Niño continues to weaken.

"Majority of climate models suggest that El Niño is in its decaying stage, returning to ENSO-neutral condition by mid-2016," the state weather bureau said.

If the climate condition does not change, the impact of La Niña will be felt in the last quarter of 2016, according to Anthony Lucero, officer-in-charge of PAGASA's Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section.

Heavy rains, floods, landslides

Lucero said if the projection continues, the following areas should prepare for floods and landslides brought by heavy rains:

"The peak months of rainy season are in December, January, February. If La Niña will develop towards the end of the year, it will enhance the effects of rainy season in those areas," Lucero said in a phone interview.

He added, however, that La Niña isn't all bad news, especially for drought-hit areas.

"On the other side of the coin, La Niña also has benefits... It is possible to grow crops in sloping areas and mountainous areas, and we could raise crops in areas that cannot be reached by irrigation. So there are also benefits if we are to prepare as early as now, even if there is no La Niña yet," Lucero explained in a mix of English and Filipino.

El Niño still in effect

In its statement, PAGASA also said that the country continues to experience El Niño, with dozens of provinces still affected.

"Drought and dry spell outlook for the month show that 23 provinces will likely experience drought and 39 provinces may experience dry spell," the state weather bureau said.

PAGASA added that one tropical cyclone could enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility in May. Thunderstorms are also expected to increase this month, mostly in the afternoon or early evening.