A month-long drought has hit parts of Malaysia and southern Thailand. This has led to water shortages and an increased threat of wildfires. Agricultural production has also been affected.
The region experiences heavy rainfall throughout the year although in areas sheltered from the effects of the northeasterly monsoon during January, February and early March, rainfall is significantly lower.
Nevertheless, the decrease in rainfall over the last month has been dramatic. Kuala Lumpur, for instance can expect 200mm of rain in February yet, to date, barely 7mm has fallen across the city.
This has resulted in water rationing for 45,000 people in Selangor state, which surrounds Malaysia’s capital.
“The supply of water in Selangor state is in a critical condition,” Khalid Ibrahim, the state’s chief minister said on Tuesday. “The water levels at a few dams have been shrinking to reach an alarming state.”
The dry weather has been accompanied by above-average temperatures which have contributed to an elevated fire risk.
The hot weather is also being linked to an increase in dengue fever, as rising temperatures quicken the life cycle of the aedes mosquito that carries the virus. Deaths from the disease have risen to 25, compared with eight in the same period last year.
There are concerns that agricultural production will be hit, as the sector’s economy relies heavily on palm oil, cocoa and rubber production.
The drought, which began in January, has hit Singapore, which has recorded less than 75mm of rain since the beginning of the year with just 0.2mm during February, a month which would normally report 170mm.
The drought may be linked to a developing El Nino in the western Pacific, where ocean temperatures are significantly warmer than average.