S’pore Might See Haze Again in the Second Half of This Year


Whether you have been enjoying the wet weather in the past few months, it’s time to say goodbye to it and hail a new weather from next month onwards. Yes, pun intended.

Unfortunately, coupled with the known hotter season in the middle of the year, a not-so-welcomed phenomenon might also make a comeback — haze.

Goodbye Rain, Hello Heat and Haze

The wet weather we have been experiencing lately is due to a natural climate phenomenon called La Nina.

However, it is expected to taper off in the second half of this year, according to the Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS).

During the period of June to October, there is a tendency for extended dry weather to occur, leading to an increase in hot spot and smoke haze activities in the fire-prone areas of the region, said MSS.

Singapore may thus be affected by transboundary smoke haze during the drier periods, depending on the location of the fires and direction of the prevailing winds.

However, it is unlikely that we will see strong transboundary haze from Sumatra or Kalimantan as the wetter-than-normal conditions in the region over the past two years would mean that soil moisture levels are relatively high in at-risk regions there.

Indonesia’s Efforts to Reduce Forest Fires

Forest fires regularly occur in provinces including Sumatra and Kalimantan largely because of land clearing for oil palm and pulp plantations.

However, Singapore skies have been mostly haze-free over the past two years due to La Nina.

Efforts by Indonesian stakeholders — including government, oil palm and paper plantation corporations, and small-scale farmers — to reduce fire risks have also played a part to keep the air clear.

In 2020, Indonesia’s deforestation rate was the lowest in 20 years, owing to policies such as a moratorium on clearing primary forests and fire-prone peat lands that was made permanent in 2019, and wetter weather.

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US-headquartered environmental news site Mongabay reported last month that Indonesia’s Riau province has declared a state of emergency ahead of the fire season to speed up and increase fire-fighting and prevention efforts.

The current low risk of haze may change if there is an uptick in large-scale deforestation between June and October, mainly through uncontrolled fires, added Prof Chow.

History of Haze

Singapore last saw transboundary haze in September 2019, when air quality entered unhealthy levels on some days then.

The most severe case of haze had been in late 2015, when all primary and secondary schools had to close for a day that year as the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index crossed into the hazardous range that day.

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