The prevailing unusual weather patterns across the country supplemented with developing indicators of El Niño phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean are likely to trigger severe weather conditions in Pakistan, experts said.
As the warm Pacific currents near the coasts of Peru and Ecuador developing El Niño events — a phenomenon that occurs every three-to-six years, dramatically affecting weather conditions worldwide — the indications are that it will dramatically affect weather patterns in Pakistan.
The current rains and dust storms occurring in South and central Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) and Northern Balochistan have resulted in a temperature drop, which in turn has seen temperatures in these areas far lower than the norm for May. Meanwhile, other parts of the country are likely to remain hot and dry, which experts said were indicators of the first phase of El Niño.
Isolated heavy rains were expected in the upper parts of K-P, Malakand and Hazara divisions and Kashmir, which may also trigger flashfloods and landslides in vulnerable areas.
Moreover, due to the low temperatures in the upper parts of the country, lower snow-melt was also predicted during the current month.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Chief Meteorologist Dr Ghulam Rasul said that with a five-degree drop in temperature, the country is going through the coldest recorded month of May in two decades.
According to a statement issued earlier this month by the National Weather Forecasting Centre (NWFC), Pakistan Meteorological Department Director Dr Muhammad Hanif the prevailing unusual weather conditions and the evolving indicators of El Niño conditions during the coming few months pointed towards an erratic monsoon in Pakistan, which may lead to lower rainfall during the season.
“Abnormal weather is appeasing the urban population, but farmers are likely to witness adverse effects on their crop yields,” said Rasul.
All stakeholders have been alerted to keep checking the latest medium-term weather advisories from the Met Office during the season. Farmers have also been advised to take precautionary measures, particularly for harvesting and threshing of wheat and sowing of cotton until the end of May.
“Due to abnormal weather conditions, the crops are likely to be damaged. The harvested crops are getting wet, which is also deteriorating the overall quality of the yield,” said Rasul.
“The weather patterns that will follow due to this El Nino effect can sometimes be very dry and or even very wet. There is also the likelihood that in future, floods and droughts might occur at the same time,” warned Rasul.
In 1997-1998, El Niño resulted in abnormal heavy snowfall, followed by the country’s worst and longest drought that stretched for four years in Balochistan, lower Punjab and K-P.
The 2009 El Niño resulted in a severe drought followed by devastating floods in 2010-2011. “Both extremes are associated with the phenomena,” said Rasul.
According to the Met Office’s latest weather report, low pressure patterns were hovering over western parts of Balochistan and adjoining areas, while a westerly disturbance was affecting upper and central parts of the country.
No severe weather warning of flashfloods, tropical cyclones or heavy rainfall has been predicted by the Met Office so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2014.