Responding to Rare Weather-related Events in a Tropical Metropolis: A Case Study of the Singaporean Approach Towards Recent Haze and Drought Incidences

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Tuesday, 6 January 2015: 11:45 AM
229AB (Phoenix Convention Center - West and North Buildings)
Winston T.L. Chow, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore

The equatorial city-state of Singapore experienced two atypical weather events in 2013/2014 that drew the attention of a population not usually aware of weather impacts on society. First, several acute trans-boundary smoke haze episodes arising from land fires in Sumatra and Borneo islands, combined with prevailing surface wind conditions, increased local air pollution indices in Singapore and neighbouring Malaysia to record hazardous levels during mid-to-late 2013. Second, a rare two-month long meteorological drought occurred within Southeast Asia during early 2014. Almost no measured precipitation was recorded in Singapore throughout February, a month that typically has ~160 mm of total precipitation. Despite the potential severity of these weather events toward social and economic aspects of Singapore, the governmental response to each event appeared to be effective in minimising harmful impacts to society arising from both these episodes. For instance, no significant increases in hospital admittances for air pollution-related respiratory illnesses occurred during and after the haze events, and no formal water-rationing was mandated by municipal officials during the drought period. The factors underpinning the high societal resilience towards these detrimental weather events are analysed, which include effective and decisive communication with stakeholders by governmental officials about its haze response, and efficient and sustainable management of water resources in adapting to drought conditions. To conclude, the importance of these factors towards future climate change impacts towards Singapore are discussed.