Sumatra hotspots identified as El Niño brings higher risk of fires

The start of the south-west monsoon season brings with it new bulletins about health advice and haze forecasts as the likelihood of smoke-filled skies increases.

It is predicted that the weather phenomenon known as El Niño will probably cause the dry season to be worse than last year, resulting in a greater risk of fire and haze in the area. In order to help combat this, the NEA (National Environment Agency) will publish up-to-date information on its Facebook and Twitter pages as well as on

Yesterday, the agency reported that the last few days has seen drier weather in certain areas in the region, and identified particular hot spots in areas of Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia. Last week, Antara, the Indonesian news agency, reported that 227 hot spots in various areas of Sumatra had been identified by satellites, the greatest number reported during the previous three months.

In the next few weeks, the south-west monsoon is predicted to continue and grow in strength which may result in winds carrying smoke, originating in Indonesia, from the illegal burning of land for agricultural use by farmers.

This time of year, June to September, is normally drier in many countries which form the southern Asean region which makes up Indonesia, such as Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and areas of the south in Thailand and the Philippines. This year, however, they may need to expect even drier weather than normal, as scientists warn that the probability of El Niño being responsible for causing even drier weather is extremely high, some say there is a 90% chance of it happening.

On a more positive note, reports from the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), considered to be one of the most reliable weather centres in the world when it comes to forecasts, suggests the effects of El Niño are likely to be moderate, but added “the situation will become clearer during the coming months”.

In Singapore, The Meteorological Service commented that the effects of El Niño have been forecast as “weak to moderate” suggesting that rainfall figures for the period June to September might be lower than the long-term average by up to 40 per cent.

The long-term average temperature for the same period, June to September, is between 27.2°C and 27.7°C. However, the temperature this year for the same period is expected to be 1°C higher than normal.

This may come as no surprise for people living in Singapore where the highest temperatures, 35°C to 36.2°C, from Monday to Wednesday have already been experienced.

Last Wednesday, Agung Laksono, the Coordinating Minister for People's Welfare in Indonesia, spoke to Vivian Balakrishnan, the Minister for Environment and Water Resources in Singapore and emphasized that Indonesia is committed to finding a solution to this recurring situation, and thanked Singapore for their assistance in the matter.

Singapore’s assistance includes the offer of HD satellite images, the coordinates of identified hot spots, teams from the Civil Defence Force and the supply of aircraft to be used in cloud-seeding operations.

Following the encounter between the two ministers, Dr Balakrishnan reported via Facebook that the meeting had been good and that both governments agreed it was important to work together in order to protect the health and wellbeing of people living in both Singapore and Indonesia. For more of the story, you can check it out here