Saturday, 2 April 2016

Abrupt climate change: focus on Sri Lanka

Our Sri Lankan guests have said that temperatures in Colombo have reached 40C and school sports activities that would normally take place at this time have been cancelled. 

The normal wet and dry seasons have been disrupted and there has been a drought for some time.

This does not, like everywhere, seem reflected in Sri Lankan media although there is a lot on a 2014 drought

Sri Lanka becoming ‘hotter’
The heat wave now beating down the entire country will continue into April when the sun will be directly over the country, the Meteorological Department said yesterday.

18 March, 2016

The heat wave now beating down the entire country will continue into April when the sun will be directly over the country, the Meteorological Department said yesterday.

The Met said the heat wave had pushed temperatures up 3 °C during the day and 2 °C at nights above normal levels.

The Met added that normal annual temperatures in the country swung between 26.5 °C to 28.5 °C. El- Nino (a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean with a global impact on weather patterns) could be one of the reasons for the increase in intense heat. Usually, the sun is directly over Sri Lanka during February and March.

The Met Department said the country was right now moving away into the inter- monsoonal season with the North-East monsoon ebbing away.

"Because of Global atmospheric movements, winds flowing over the country have been mostly hot and dry but inter-monsoonal showers were very likely within a week or just over and that would drive the heat wave away to some extent in some parts of the country," the Met dded.

Normal weather conditions would resume after the onset of the South-West monsoon towards the latter part of May, the Met predicted.

From 2014

Sri Lankan media reports on climate change

State of the Climate: Record Heat and Weather Extremes

Sri Lanka seeks ways to turn El Niño pain into gain for farmers

5 January, 2016

POLONNARUWA, Sri Lanka (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Rice farmer Weerasinghearchchilage Darmarathana is used to periodic flooding in his low-lying village of Galella in central Sri Lanka.

The 60-year-old has lived all his life on the flood plains of the country’s longest river, the Mahaweli, in Polonnaruwa District, some 250 km (155.34 miles) northeast of the capital Colombo.

It used to be maybe twice, three times a year the road would go under, but the last year has been insane,” said the paddy farmer. In his recollection, Galella has never been flooded with the same frequency as in the last two months of 2015.

The village was hit six times in less than two months, Darmarathana said, after unusually heavy rains battered the region in November and December.

Over a million people were marooned in Sri Lanka’s Northern, North Central and Eastern Provinces, and over 400 homes and other buildings were destroyed.

An advisory issued by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in early December attributed the rains to the current El Niño weather phenomenon, likely to be the strongest since 1997-1998.

Extreme rainfall also caused havoc in India late last year, including extensive flooding in the city of Chennai.

The consensus that strong El Niño conditions has led to abnormal rainfall during the northeast monsoon season in South Asia indicates that El Niño had a part to play in the sequence of extreme weather events in India,” the ESCAP advisory said.

Excessive El Niño-linked rainfall across southern India and northern Sri Lanka was expected to continue into early 2016, it added.

Sri Lankan authorities said they were prepared. “Historically El Niño has meant more rains in this region, so we have been making our predictions on those lines,” said Lalith Chandrapala, head of the island’s Department of Meteorology.

Chandrapala said the country could be in a position to benefit from the El Niño-induced rains, which began in mid-November on the back of a weak monsoon he assessed to be 75 percent below average.

We have been telling agencies like the Department of Agriculture to advise farmers to prepare for rains,” he said.


The ESCAP report also noted that the waters from the current bout of rains could be used for the upcoming planting season.

As the heavy rains struck when there was no harvest, agricultural losses have been negligible.

Pradeep Koddiplili, deputy director at the Disaster Management Centre, said no warnings had yet been issued for potential El Niño-related crop damage, mainly because the rains had coincided with the preparation of fields for planting.

But disaster risk experts working in rural areas say awareness of changing weather patterns remains low and could prevent farmers making the most of the unseasonal rains.

Sarath Wickramasinghe, a disaster risk reduction specialist with the Sri Lanka Red Cross who works in North Central Province, said people in the country’s dry zone lacked sufficient infrastructure and knowledge to adapt to shifting rains.

"They are traditionally geared for the monsoon, which comes twice a year - even some officials are," he said. "That mindset needs to be changed."

Farmers must adjust to long dry spells, like that experienced in parts of Sri Lanka between June and October 2015, broken by heavy rains. “Right now the cultivation cycles follow the traditional monsoon,” he added.

Farmer Darmarathana from Galella has worked according to the monsoon since he started farming in the 1970s.

I don’t know any other timetable,” he said. “Someone needs to teach me the new methods, if there are any.”

Wickramasinghe said the approach of traditional farmers needed to evolve “if we are to gain any kind of advantage from the changing rain patterns”.

The Red Cross and the U.N. Development Programme have launched a pilot project in Polonnaruwa District to help farmers adapt to uncertain weather and climate conditions.

Targeting 100 families in Nagastenne village, it provides them with assistance including seeds and technical knowledge to develop sustainable agriculture methods, such as water harvesting, and to restore degraded and.

Sri Lanka ready for El Niño
  • As the El Niño hits South Asia, Sri Lanka announces readiness to face the phenomenon
  • Officials bank on assessments that predict extra rainfall in Sri Lanka over the last quarter of 2015
  • Wildly erratic weather over the last five years has kept Sri Lankan authorities on their toes

26 October, 2015

[COLOMBO]  Sri Lankan officials say the country is prepared to face the El Niño weather phenomenon in the last quarter of 2015 and take precautions based on the experience of the recent past.

Temperatures have remained above average this year and a prolonged dry spell has left over 200,000 in the Northern Province thirsting for safe drinking water. But, officials at the Meteorological Department (MD) and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) say the impacts are manageable.

According to global weather forecasts the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean called El Niño has now set in with most predicting it to be similar in strength to an occurrence in 1997. “The strong El Niño is expected to last until at least the end of the year before declining in the first quarter of 2016,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said in an update on 13 October.

However, some assessments also predict that South Asia was likely to receive above average rains in late 2015. “Countries on the equator can expect more rain, flooding and higher sea levels as El Niño takes hold,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says.

We have analysed  past weather patterns when El Niño was active and what we have seen is that in the last quarter of the year rains, in fact, increase in this part of the globe,” says L. Chandrapala, director-general of the MD. “More rains in the last quarter of the year would be welcome following a weak South West Monsoon — the monsoon was below 75 per cent this year.”

The failure of the rains and high temperatures have caused ground water resources to dwindle in the Northern Province. Over the last two months, the DMC has been supporting local authorities to deliver water to the worst-hit communities.

But, Chandrapala says Sri Lanka is now better prepared to deal with fluctuating climate trends that have resulted in frequent extreme weather events. “It is about long-term planning — we are better prepared than we were five years back.”

So far, there is no sign that things will worsen, we have not received any warnings from the MD or the agriculture department of major crop losses,” Pradeep Koddiplili, DMC deputy director, tells SciDev.Net.

Sri Lanka has seen five major floods and four major droughts since 2010, attributed by changing climate.

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