The heavy rains that battered Metro Manila and surrounding areas last week and over the weekend have left many people wet, no doubt, and wondering: why was there so much rain and floods? What phenomenon is causing all of this?
One “culprit” would be varying temperatures. In the Philippines, temperatures start to stabilize during the early months of June through late July as the country transitions from dry to wet seasons, with rain showers becoming more prevalent. When the southwest monsoon (more popularly known as “Habagat”) becomes more dominant, rains become more widely distributed.
Normal rain distribution is crucial to nourish the land, restore the water table to meet the demands of a thirsty population, and bring back the greenery in the lowlands. With these varying rain conditions, it is essential to understand monsoons and their behavior.
The monsoon is a seasonal rain and wind pattern that occurs over South Asia, among other places. According to William Lau, an atmospheric scientist from the University of Maryland in the United States, monsoons account for more than 60% of annual rainfall worldwide, while a similar percentage of the world’s population live in regions hit by monsoons. A large portion of our global population rely heavily on monsoon rains for domestic and economic use, but this becomes one of the vulnerabilities of coastal states such as the Philippines.
With the advance of the Habagat during mid-June through September, tropical cyclones or “bagyo” will enhance a steady stream of warm and most air masses coming from the Western Indian Ocean, the Andaman Sea, and the Gulf of Thailand. These cause the incessant build up of rain-bearing clouds toward the West Philippine Sea, which consequently bring severe flooding Filipinos have grown accustomed to.
Nevertheless, Habagat is not all that bad. For instance, the Philippines is a predominantly agricultural country chiefly reliant on rains and equitable amount of sunshine. Being one of the secondary recipients of the southwest monsoon current in tropical Asia, the Philippines gets its annual share of rainfall essential to growing crops that feed millions of consumers.
Being an archipelagic region known for having vagaries in weather, we should all be ready not just with our rain gear, but with the mindset that now is the time to be more wary of possible sudden changes in weather. This brings us closer to building a #WeatherWiser nation which we are aiming to achieve.
Written by: Adonis S. Manzan, Typhoon Specialist, WeatherPhilippines Foundation, Inc.
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