Malaysia and the rest of Southeast Asia face heightened risks of haze, drought and water shortages with an El Niño being declared this year. The onset of dry conditions can typically last a year beginning in either July or August.
The region was last hit by an El Niño in 2015/16 when several countries were blanketed by a transboundary haze resulting in cancelled flights, closed schools and a sharp increase in respiratory ailments and deaths. Water rationing was also introduced due to drought.
The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration agency says that an El Niño will strengthen toward the end of 2023 with a 56 percent chance of it peaking as a strong event and an 84 percent likelihood of at least a moderate event.
A strong El Niño would have considerable impact on Sumatra, Java Island, Sulawesi and southern Borneo with drier conditions from September to November. Northern Borneo and the southern Philippines could experience dry spells from December to February.
And if there is extensive open burning or forest fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan, a transboundary haze may result when the southwest monsoon sweeps the particles towards Singapore and Malaysia.
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