SATURDAY, February 24, 2024

Thailand on course for hottest and driest year: climate expert

Thailand on course for hottest and driest year: climate expert

A climate change expert has warned that Thailand is on course to experience its “hottest and driest year” on record in 2024.

Dr Seri Suparatit, an expert on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), forecast an unusually warm cool season (November-February) for the country followed by extreme heat in April.

Average temperatures in the hot season would be 1.5C higher than normal, he said in a Facebook post.

Average temperatures for the past three years from December to April have been lower than normal, but that would change this year, he said, predicting a rise of almost 2 degrees Celsius from normal levels over the next few months.

He warned of possible drought over the coming months, especially in the central and eastern regions.

Farmers should monitor the weather closely as rainfall patterns can only be forecast one month in advance during the prevailing El Niño conditions, Seri said.

Thailand experienced 30% more rain than usual in September and 19% more in October, especially in the North and Northeast. However, accumulated rainfall remains lower than usual, except in the Northeast.

Irrigation capacity in the Chao Phraya River Basin is about 62% (11 billion cubic metres) – significantly less than the 78% in 2022.

Only 2.3 billion cubic metres will be allocated to farmers, allowing cultivation of no more than 2 million rai (320,000 hectares) out of 8 million rai this year, according to Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives data.

Last year, more than 5.8 billion cubic metres was allocated for over 7 million rai of rice fields in the basin.

More than 80% of areas outside irrigation zones, especially in the Northeast, will suffer a 10% increase in evaporation rates. Farmers in these zones must prepare accordingly, Seri said.

The extreme hot weather will also trigger forest fires in the North, PM2.5 smog, and heatwaves in urban areas, he said.

As well as extreme heat in April, he predicted higher-than-average temperatures for the whole of 2024, citing the effects of global warming and El Niño.