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Jakarta Post

BMKG says El Niño worsening, inching toward 1997 level

The Jakarta Post
Jakarta   ●   Wed, September 16, 2015

The Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) said on Tuesday that the El Niño weather phenomenon had become stronger this month and would likely intensify at the end of this year.

El Niño is the warm phase of El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean, causing a significant reduction in Indonesian rainfall.

According to BMKG meteorology deputy chairman Yunus Subagyo Swarinoto the current ENSO index has already hit 2.30, up 0.28 points from 2.02 last week.

However, according to BMKG data, that index is still below the peak in 1997, which was 2.59.

'€œWe can see that El Niño tends to become stronger day by day,'€ Yunus said during his presentation at a meeting attended by Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya Bakar and governors of South Sumatra, Riau, Jambi, Central Kalimantan, West Kalimantan and South Kalimantan in Jakarta on Tuesday.

The meeting was to discuss actions taken by the governors to mitigate the intensified haze that has blanketed Sumatra and Kalimantan over the past few days.

The BMKG said that the current ENSO index had almost reached earlier predictions. In August 2015, the BMKG predicted that the ENSO index would increase to 2.4 by the end of the year.

Yunus said the worsening El Niño had left some regions in Indonesia without rain for more than 60 days.

'€œJava, West and East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi will not get rain until November of this year,'€ he added.

However, the northern part of Sumatra has received light rain over the last five days.

Responding to the report, Luhut ordered the BMKG to share its climate change and rainfall data with all governors in the country.

'€œThe data will tell the governors what they should do to mitigate disaster,'€ Luhut said, adding that the country'€™s climate would enter a crisis phase in the next two months.

He pointed out that even though the BMKG data showed that some regions had received light rain, the potential for prolonged drought remained, especially in South Kalimantan, Java and South Sulawesi.

'€œLet'€™s meet again if next week the rainfall in Sumatra shows good potential,'€ Luhut said.

In 1997 and 1998, Indonesia experienced a prolonged drought induced by the strongest-ever recorded El Niño, which triggered widespread fires.

The greatest damage caused by forest and land fires in Indonesia occurred in 1997, when fires wiped out millions of hectares of forest and plantation areas and caused losses estimated at US$2.45 billion.

Recently, many climate watchers have said that this year'€™s weather phenomenon, with rapid warming in the central and eastern Pacific, had all the ingredients to create another monster El Niño, like the one in 1997 that led to a spike in global temperatures.

BMKG chief Andi Eka Sakya also said there were indications that this year'€™s El Niño could be as severe as in 1997. '€œThe trend of the 2015 El Niño strengthening is shown by the tendency of the pool of warm water to drift east and keep widening toward the same form as in September 1997,'€ he told The Jakarta Post. (ind)