Fewer but stronger storms expected in 1st half of 2016

Pia Ranada
Fewer but stronger storms expected in 1st half of 2016
During El Niño years, there are more storms with wind speeds exceeding 150 km/h, says a PAGASA official

MANILA, Philippines –The first half of 2016 will likely bring fewer but stronger storms, said Philippine weather forecasters on Wednesday, January 6.

The El Niño phenomenon that began in 2015 is expected to persist until June of this year, bringing below-normal rainfall in most parts of the Philippines.

For this reason, only 2 to 6 tropical cyclones are expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) from January to June, said PAGASA Acting Administrator Vicente Malano. 

The average number of storms to enter PAR during this period is 5, said PAGASA Deputy Administrator for Research and Development Flaviana Hilario. 

During the El Niño year of 2015, only 15 storms entered PAR, compared to the 19 to 21 average number of storms, said PAGASA Senior Weather Specialist Anthony Lucero. 

Warmer oceans, stronger storms

But though there might be fewer storms in the first 6 months of 2016, they are likely to be strong ones.

“In terms of the strength or wind speed of storms, there may be more storms that will exceed 150 kilometer/hour wind speeds. During El Niño, wind speed of storms is stronger based on our observations,” said Hilario in a mix of English and Filipino.

Storms with speeds of over 150 km/h are those that bring about Storm Signal No 3 or higher to affected areas.

She said the same observation was made during past El Niño years – 2009, 1997, 1982, and 1972.

These were years of strong typhoons like Pepeng (international name Parma, 2009), Narsing (Ivan, 1997), Bising (Nelson, 1982), and Asiang (Kit, 1972).

The strongest storm to hit the country in 2015, a strong El Niño year, was Lando (Koppu) which had wind speeds comparable to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) as it approached PAR.

Hilario said this is because El Niño is accompanied by increases in sea surface temperature. Warmer oceans provide the fuel for stronger weather systems. 

As of January 5, sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, where most storms are formed, was 2.7°C warmer than usual. 

While Hilario cautioned that it is very difficult to predict the number of tropical cyclones in a given time period, forecasts show that there may be only one or no tropical cyclone each month from January to April. 

One or two typhoons per month are expected in May and June. – Rappler.com

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.