MANILA — El Niño, a weather phenomenon characterized by below-normal rainfall that can lead to dry spells and drought, may persist until 2024, the state weather bureau said Thursday.
Climate projections by PAGASA show that El Niño will begin by the third quarter of 2023 or between July and September, and will last until next year.
The forecast prompted the weather agency to issue an El Niño Watch, which is released when "conditions are favorable" for the development of El Niño in the next 6 months and the probability is 55 percent or above.
Ana Liza Solis, chief of PAGASA's climate monitoring and prediction section, said the El Niño Watch is meant to lead early preparations. The weather phenomenon's effects will not be immediately felt, she added.
"Monitoring and preparatory activities pa lang po so sa mga darating na panahon ay hindi di pa po makikita ang impact ng El Niño," Solis told reporters in a press briefing.
(It's just monitoring and preparatory activities so in the coming days the impact of El Niño will not be seen yet.)
El Niño is the warm phase of the naturally-occurring climate pattern El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), marked by changes in wind direction and sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.
PAGASA said the western part of the Philippines might experience above-normal precipitation during the habagat or southwest monsoon season which usually starts from May to September.
But Thelma Cinco, the bureau's climatology and agrometeorology division chief, said a reversal in the rainfall pattern happens during an El Niño year.
The northern part of the country is usually very wet but becomes dry towards the end of the year.
If El Niño persists the following year, drier conditions are experienced.
Cinco added areas in Visayas and Mindanao under Climate Types III and IV, which have evenly distributed rainfall throughout the year, usually feel the immediate effect of the reduced amount of rain.
Meanwhile, Hydrometeorology Division Chief Roy Badilla said that the rainfall forecast over watersheds and dam reservoirs remains normal until September.
"Ang forecast po natin sa ngayon kung titingnan hanggang September is normal. Kung iyon po ang mangyayari, wala pa namang magiging problema," Badilla said.
"Let us wait siguro for the update of our forecast then we can update the projections. Ang tinitingnan natin na magkakaroon tayo ng challenges sa water supply is next year," he said.
(Our forecast for now if we look at it until September is normal. If that happens, there will be no problem. Let us wait for the update of our forecast, then we can update the projections. What we are looking at is that we will have challenges in the water supply next year.)
EL NIÑO AND CLIMATE CRISIS
Apart from rainfall, El Niño also impacts tropical cyclone activity.
Storms tend to become stronger as they form farther from land and travel over the sea longer but they recurve before approaching the country.
However, very intense typhoons sometimes hit the country.
The current climate crisis has also exacerbated the effects of El Niño.
Solis said that prior to 2000, intense El Niño events occur every 15 years.
But after 2000, she noted that more intense episodes happen every seven years.
Cinco added that tropical cyclones tend to be less frequent but they become stronger due to warmer sea temperatures.