1. Review of Regional Weather Conditions in March 2016
1.1 Weak Northeast Monsoon conditions prevailed in March 2016 with winds that were light and from the northeaster on most days in March 2016. The monsoon rain belt continued to lie south of the equator. Most of the shower activities fell mostly over areas south of the equator while warm and dry weather conditions persisted over areas in the southern ASEAN region north of the equator, in particular over Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.
1.2 Drought conditions affected several parts of the northern ASEAN region, and were particularly severe in northern Thailand, central and south Vietnam. Persistent warmer than usual temperatures were experienced in countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. The northern states of Peninsular Malaysia, such as Chu Ping, Alor Star and Ipoh experienced very high temperatures on several consecutive days where the highest daily maximum temperatures ranged between 37 and 39 degrees Celsius.
1.3 Large scale drier than usual weather conditions were observed across many parts of ASEAN region in March 2016. In particular, significantly below-normal rainfall, i.e. less than 50% of normal rainfall, was received over areas north of the equator including northern ASEAN, Malaysia, Singapore, northern Sumatra and eastern Kalimantan. An exception was in the western coastal areas of Kalimantan where near-normal rainfall was received. The regional rainfall distribution for March 2016 is shown in Figure Fig. 1A.
2. Review of Land/Forest Fires and Smoke Haze Situation
2.1 Hotspot activities in Sumatra and Kalimantan were generally subdued by shower activities in March 2016. However, isolated hotspots with localised smoke plumes were detected in some parts of Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah such as central Pahang and Beaufort, Sabah due to drier than usual weather conditions there.
2.2 In the northern ASEAN region, hotspot activities remained elevated in March 2016 due to the prevailing dry weather conditions. The fires were particularly active along the borders between Myanmar and Thailand near Maehongsorn and Kanchanaburi provinces, as well as in northern Lao PDR and eastern Cambodia. Visible smoke plumes were seen emanating from these hotspot regions on a number of days. Hazy conditions and elevated PM10 readings exceeding 150ug/m3 were reported in Maehongsorn, Thailand.
2.3 The hotspot charts for March 2016 for
- Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR and Vietnam;
- Sumatra, Borneo and Peninsular Malaysia;
3. Status of El Niño/La Niña
3.1 The tropical Pacific Ocean continued to show declining but still strong El Niño conditions in March 2016. The El Niño has passed its peak strength, and will continue a slow and steady decline.
3.2 Large-scale rainfall response to the El Niño in terms of widespread drier-than-normal conditions was observed over mosst areas of the Southeast Asia region for March 2016. The consensus forecast based on assessments from international climate models and experts assessment project that the current El Niño conditions to continue through the first quarter of 2016 before transiting to Neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña) by mid-2016 and persisting for a few months. There is a chance of La Niña development by the third quarter of 2016.
3.3 The region is transitioning from the Northeast Monsoon season (late Nov – Mar) to the Inter-Monsoon period (Apr – May), and the impact of El Niño is usually less pronounced as compared to the Southwest Monsoon season (Jun – Sep). Typically, El Niño will bring drier than average rainfall conditions over to the southern and eastern parts of the region but less significant impact to the northern and western parts of the region during this period. More locally-specific impact differs from place to place and for different seasons.