Drought Worsens in Malaysia and Thailand

By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
March 4, 2014; 7:03 PM ET
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Play video The above video details the weather across Asia.

An extended period of dry weather across Malaysia and southern Thailand has led to water shortages, agricultural problems and an increase in wildfires.

The last measurable rainfall of more than 1 mm (0.04 of an inch) in Singapore was Jan. 12, when the city reported 18 mm (0.72 of an inch).

It has now been 50 days since the city recorded more than 1 mm (0.04 of an inch), making it one of the longest stretches for dry weather in the recorded history of the city.

Young girls play in a dried-up river bed near the city of Kota Bahru, the capital of Kelantan state which borders Thailand Sunday, March 8, 1998. A serious drought will worsen across similar areas in the coming weeks. (AP Photo/Bernama)

For more perspective on the severity of the drought, Singapore has reported less than 75 mm (3 inches) of rain since Jan. 1, which is less than 20 percent of the normal 442 mm (17.39 inches) that falls through March 2.

The drought has begun to impact agriculture across both Malaysia and Thailand, including the crops of rice and rubber.

Drinking water shortages have also become a concern and could result in hundreds of thousands of people seeing their water supplies run dry in the coming weeks if rain does not return.

More than 2 million people are already subject to water rationing, according to Channel News Asia. That number is likely to rise in the coming weeks as rainfall remains sparse across the region.

Air pollution has become an issue in and around the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in recent days as a thick smog built over the city and air quality levels have risen to unhealthy levels.

Detailed Singapore, Forecast
Malaysia Weather Center
Thailand Weather Center

A period of well below-normal rainfall is expected to continue through the middle of March, and any significant rainfall could take even longer to return. This weather pattern will likely lead to worsening conditions for people, livestock and agriculture.

Another rising concern is that a continuation of the dry weather already impacting the region will result in an increased risk for wildfires during the spring and summer months. Occurrences of wildfires have already been on the increase in the past few weeks, leading to some of the air quality issues across the region.


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