Tropical Island Weather Eye

Most outdoor folk keep a keen eye on the weather.

The Cornish fisherman will go night fishing if it is a red sky at eve, high pressure coming, red dawn, stay in port because the high pressure is leaving.       ”Be true fact, m’dear.”

‘Tis tougher for a Suffolk farmer, he knows one fine spring day does not guarantee his seedlings will be free from frost. He needs to remember trends going back to his childhood.      “Be ever so.”

The Iban farmers of Sarawak plant their rice when the migrant Japanese sparrow hawk returns to Borneo. This is somewhat irrational. The birds are escaping Japan’s bitter winter, not predicting jungle weather on the equator.      “Tuba?” (1)

The country farmers of temperate zones have fairly well defined seasons to guide them. In the tropics of Philippines, (“Give me your money, Joe!”), there used to be two seasons, dry or wet with typhoons.

 1965

I started coming to the Philippines nearly fifty years ago, my wife was born there, on the island shown at the top of this site, and we used to visit when I had leave from California. These holidays were often timed for the start of the dry season. Days and days on the beach, always with my Siren of the Archipelago, were sun kissed.       “Never rains this time of year, RK. Another Mig?” (2).

 1985

Retired on the above island and set up a hobby farm almost thirty years ago. The weather was critical to the daily activities. Dry season, water crops twice a day. Wet season, plant Kang Kong. (3)

  2014

May Dry season did not arrive. Fields covered in Kang Kong. Another typhoon is just sitting off the coast. Food has become expensive, supplies are short and our ground beef is carabao. (4)

Our mini hardwood forest is thriving. The mahogany trees I planted when I first came are almost forest giants. The birds came back and the trees are untouchable as long as I stand. (5)

 So what?

Listen, this is no random change in weather. It has been turning wetter here for the past fifteen years. Each year there is an increase in annual rainfall. This doesn’t correlate with La Nina events, checked that.  It looks like some new twist of Global Warming.

More Typhoons?

Yes, but it isn’t that simple. They are tracking further south and holding an east to west track for longer periods. Many of the recent storms have become stationary when they hit the coast and this increases flood and wind damage by roughly an order of magnitude. The old ways of understanding local weather, based on a pair of alternating monsoons, Nina and Niño events and being in the inter tropical convergence zone  no longer apply. Storms, from low pressure to very low pressure, are marching in from the east on a weekly basis.

Track of Yolanda courtesy of CNN

What happened when Yolanda Hit?

Typhoon Yolanda
Typhoon Yolanda

Why wasn’t I killed by the biggest storm in history? I built my house and chose a site back from the sea. The building has concrete and steel walls two feet thick and two storey in height. There’s even a Tsunami shelter on the roof. All my mates and their girl friends invited themselves round; our tenant, his horde of children and strangers came dashing in at the last minute..

At 01 00 I had a nip of scotch, the wind was coming about and the storm was moving on to make landfall further north. So I had a nap. When I woke up my only bottle of John Walker was facing me. It was empty and had a candle jammed in the neck.

Global warming is going to cost more than my Christmas whisky. It does seem that the tropical typhoon belts may be acting as the canary in the coal mine. The change in weather here is such a strong trend it is better seen as climatic change, and for the worse.

” What’s really happening in your part of the world, nothing much? YET!”

(1)   Tuba                alcoholic rice drink

(2)   Mig                  San Miguel, a world class beer with a coarse hop flavor.

(3)   Kang Kong      aquatic green vegetable

(4)   Caraboa          water buffalo

(5)   Typhoons cause attrition amongst standing timber, this is unavoidable.

 

Ray Kennet, 1930  – 2???

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