To understand better the possible effects of climate change in the Philippines, it is critical to collect, record, collate and analyze all data and information with possible links to climate change so that appropriate scenario-building and extrapolations can occur.
The Philippines, being an archipelago and a developing country, is highly vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change. The latter has been manifested in the country in terms of extreme weather disturbances including increased number of tropical cyclones, stronger typhoons, heavy flooding, and long dry spells. These extreme weather events associated with climate change, and the corresponding disasters these have caused, resulted to significant loss of human lives and loss of billions of pesos due to destruction of properties, including damage to agriculture. It is therefore important to be able to recognize these changing weather patterns to help the country in its adaptation efforts. This is the motivation of a recent research paper from the National Institute of Geological Sciences of the University of the Philippines entitled “Extreme weather events and related disasters in the Philippines, 2004–08: a sign of what climate change will mean?“
In the paper, Yumul and colleagues examined the changing climatic patterns of the country over a period of five years (2004-2008). They first described the geological setting of the Philippines, necessary to understand how the physical attributes of the country react to extreme weather events. For instance, this will explain how soil can be easily transported through earthquake or rain-induced mass wasting or how rocks and soil are susceptible to movement in the event of sustained precipitation, etc. They then proceeded to discuss the country’s meteorological settings – where most tropical cyclones are formed, the two wind systems that bring heavy rains to the country, and the El Nino Southern Oscillation phenomenon, among others.
A year-by-year account of what has transpired between 2004 and 2008, in terms of extreme weather events, is then presented starting from the deadly last quarter storms of 2004, followed by a lull of extreme weather events in 2005, the super-typhoons of 2006, the dry spell in 2007, and the exceptionally wet spell in 2008. These extreme weather occurrences had caused the November 2004 flash-flood affecting the towns of General Nakar, Infanta, and Real in Quezon, the 2006 landslide in Southern Leyte where an entire village got buried, resulting to almost 1,000 casualties as well as destruction of large amounts of property, and the typhoon Milenyo striking the Metropolitan Manila, to cite a few examples. The excessive rainfall in 2004, 2006, and 2008 brought in numerous problems to the country including artificial damming of rivers, remobilization of lahar deposits, excessive flooding, and landslides, among others. The dry spell in 2007 also adversely affected agriculture, power, and water sectors.
In spite of the challenges, several lessons were also learned. The authors also brought up several initiatives introduced to tackle disasters related to extreme weather events – from community-based early-warning system, to intensive information and education campaigns focused on natural hazards, and to enhancement of the capacities of local government in dealing with natural disasters through training.
This work will definitely contribute to the pool of information of extreme weather events and related disasters in the country, which is needed in planning strategic course of action for the country to effectively adapt to an environment undergoing human-induced climate change. For more detailed discussion, access the paper entitled, “Extreme weather events and related disasters in the Philippines, 2004–08: a sign of what climate change will mean?” by Graciano P. Yumul, Jr., Nathaniel A. Cruz, Nathaniel T. Servando and Carla B. Dimalanta, Disasters 35 (2011) pp. 362-385.