Storms more deadly as Philippines gets hotter

by Jojo Malig,

Posted at Dec 15 2012 06:40 PM | Updated as of Dec 16 2012 09:14 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines became hotter in the last 6 decades while experiencing more extreme rainfall and deadlier storms, according to new government data.

The annual mean surface  temperature in the country rose by 0.65°C during the period 1951 to 2010, or an average of 0.0108°C per year, said National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert.

Albert, citing data from state weather bureau PAGASA, said the temperature increase in the last 30 years (0.164°C per year) in the country also grew faster.

He added that the number of hot days and warm nights in the Philippines have also been found to be increasing.

He then mentioned a September 2012 paper "Climate-Related Disasters in Asia and the Pacific" that indicated evidence of heavier rains in the last decade. 

"In Luzon, considerably increasing frequency of more extreme rainfall events (i.e., with at least 350 mm rainfall) were recorded during the past decade, compared to the 275 mm rainfall events of the 1960s and 1970s," Albert said in a report published by the NSCB.

He added that while the number of tropical cyclones has not changed considerably in the country -- an average of 19 yearly -- storms are now bringing more rainwater.

Mindanao gets rarely hit by tropical cyclones, but it now has chanced since tropical storm Sendong last year and Typhoon Pablo this year.

Albert said Sendong, which hit Mindanao in December 2011, was a weak cyclone but it brought a one day total accumulated rainfall of 180 mm. 

Sendong, which killed more than 1,200 people and caused more than P2 billion in damage to property, is considered as the world's deadliest storm last year.

Typhoon Pablo, which also struck Mindanao this year, has killed at least 955 people, with 841 still missing as of December 15.

Pablo's damage to property has reached more than P15 billion, according to latest estimates.

The 2 storms still pale in comparison to  Typhoon Uring (international name Thelma) which occurred in 1991, according to Albert.

He said Uring was packing sustained winds of only 95 kph but killed 5,101 people.

"For the last 5 years, 2008 to 2012, the Philippines was always in the top three countries with the highest number of natural disasters," he said, citing data from the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters' (CRED) Annual Disaster Statistical Review.

More than 26,000 deaths

More than 26,000 killed by storms and floods in the Philippines since 1983, according to CRED data.

During the said period, storms and floods also affected more than 114 million people, the CRED said.

Albert said from 1983 to 2012, the economic damage brought about by storms totalled US $5.9 billion while floods caused around US $1.2 billion in damage.

"The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their four comprehensive assessments found that global average surface temperature has increased over the past one and half centuries, and that this global warming cannot be attributed solely to natural variability," he said.

"The 2007 IPCC report suggested that this temperature has increased by 0.76°C in the 150 year period and that this climate change is largely a result of human induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  A special IPCC report (2012) tightens the link between human-induced climate change and extreme weather and climate events," he added.

"There are those who suggest that these changes in the nature of hazards is partly a result of human induced climate change. Thus, our delegation to the recent Climate Change meeting in Doha used emotional language to help convince the world to make the necessary actions to limit GHG emissions," Albert said.

"Definitive policies on population management and risk reduction have not been extensively developed," he said.

"As a victim of Ondoy when I used to live in Provident Village, I cannot understand why villages were allowed to be established in areas that are at risk of regular occurrences of hazards," he added. "We have to look into the disaster statistics, and recognize that we can’t continue to keep on mopping the floor without closing the tap that causes the floors to get wet. We have to commit to change."

"Let us look at what these numbers are saying.  Let us also go beyond the numbers and do something now," he stressed.