DESPITE the continuous rainfalls, there is still a 65 per cent possibility of the occurrence of El Niño in the country starting this October until May next year, according to the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa).

The phenomenon, an abnormal weather condition of extended dry season, last hit the country in 1998. It severely damaged the agricultural sector that resulted in crop losses, starvation, and economic depression.

The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is due to the cyclic warming of the surface of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean (ocean warming). As a result, countries situated in the Pacific experience warm weather.

Pagasa based its report on the latest computer simulation models of the Global Climate Prediction Centers in the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. The predicted strength of the warm episode is “mild”, but it may worsen as some area like Sarangani in Mindanao is already experiencing the abnormal weather climate change.

The strength of ENSO is measured by using the Southern Oscillation Index (SOI) based on the sea level pressure. When the index shows a negative number, ENSO occurs. On the other hand, La Niña (ocean cooling) or the onset of heavy rains is experienced when it gives a positive number.

In the Pagasa advisory, the SOI is consistently negative. The temperature has increased to 1ºC throughout the equatorial pacific. The Southern Tagalog, Central Visayas, and Northern Mindanao will experience slight drought conditions since rainfall conditions will be inadequate or will not occur in these areas.

Aside from the harmful heatwave, other destructive effects of the weather aberration are drought, water shortages, forest fires, and diseases. Skin problems typically acquired during summer like measles, prickly heat, and sunburn due to excessive heat and exposure to the sun that could lead to skin cancer are common, according to Dr. Dante Lerma of UST Health Service. Sore eyes, fungal infections, diarrhea, dehydration, high fever, and respiratory tract infections are also common because of the sudden change from cold to extremely hot temperature.

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Pagasa has advised government agencies and NGOs to plan strategies to prevent, mitigate, and rehabilitate the damage El Niño may cause. It suggested ssustainable development programs, crop management, and water-saving tips. Brix Gil M. Bayuga

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