Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Cloud watching and cloud seeding

It's now the last day of July, and monsoonal rains are not yet in. The past few days, we have some rains, short ones like several mnutes long. I thought that at least those thick rain clouds up there are falling somehow. Then it was reported that many of those rains were a result of cloud seeding operations by the government. Maybe the government feels guilty that it has neglected several millions of hectares of public forest lands that it own and manage, that have become bald and deforested.

When it's very hot at noontime when it's already July, you tend to look up the sky to watch and see where the clouds are that can provide a wide umbrella from the sun's scorching energy. Of course when it's very hot, it means the clouds are either absent or they're far away from where the sun is situated. And so you wish that the clouds would come quick to your rescue; or at least to your crops' rescue if you're a farmer.

Last week, some broadsheet papers here in Manila headlined things like "Power outage and water rationing looms". This is after knowing that some hydro-power plants have to shut off operations even temporarily for lack of strong water to fall down and turn the turbines. And the conflict between the need for irrigation water for rice and other crops, and the need for drinking water has once again resurfaced as the water level in some dams are breaching critical levels. Of course some of those headlines maybe exagerrated and are too alarmist, but somehow there are grains of truth in their stories.

At least one province in the northern part of the Philippines has already declared a state of calamity due to prolonged drought. When provincial officials do this, they intend to get a certain percentage from the nation's calamity fund and give the money to their people, also to themselves. One measure that the provincial officials have thought, is to give free fuel to farmers (xx liters per farmer) so they can pump water from the drying creeks and rivers with low water level, into their rice fields.

Tomorrow it will be August. Historically, it is among the wettest month of the year. I remember in August 2003, when Europe was wobbling from a terrible heatwave that killed around 35,000 people, the Philippines, or at least Metro Manila and its neighboring provinces, had 7 days and 7 nights of non-stop rains! So that tens of thousands of hectares of rice lands were flooded, resulting to huge crop losses as many rice varieties cannot recover after being submerged in water for several days. For those rice varieties that survived, the harvest was adversely affected.

As the Philippines and other countries slightly north of the equator are sizzling, other countries, especially those slightly south of the equator, are having floods. Rather weird. Similar to Europe middle of this month -- where southern Europe is scorching, north Europe like Britain is flooding.

This climate change will spur people to adjust accordingly -- economically, physically, even biologically. If this trend will continue, maybe 1 or 2 decades from now, us Malays, our brown skin will slowly become dark brown. Especially those who work under the sun too often.

What we shall be watching in the coming weeks, aside from cloud watching, is if there are mutant diseases that will pose serious threat to public health. Or at least pose threat to livestock, animals that we eat as supply of grains and other crops will decline relative to demand in the coming months.

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