How deforestation and climate change may be related to flash floods during northeast monsoon season 2021-2022

Animated map of northeast monsoon winds and rain on Sunday, 2 January 2022, 9 am to 10 am (Source: Windy app)

Deforestation and urbanisation in Southeast Asia have been contributing to warmer temperatures, resulting in a chain reaction of stronger air turbulence and more extreme weather events such as stronger monsoon winds and heavier storms, leading to more severe floods.

The floods have also been exacerbated by the increase in sediments from the exposed soil eroded by the rain that are washed into rivers, as well as the increase in surface runoff from the heavy rain that fell onto the impermeable ground, which was once covered with trees that were able to intercept and absorb most of the rainwater.

Singapore has been lucky to escape the brunt of the most recent northeast monsoon storms, but who knows, we may be the next target after Selangor and other states were heavily hit on 16-18 December 2021, followed by Johor on 2-4 January 2022.

Monsoon rains causing floods in Selangor and other states in Peninsular Malaysia on 18 December 2021; monsoon winds and rains causing floods in Johor, Malaysia on 2 January 2022; the reddish areas show highest rain intensity (Sources: Government of India & Windy app)

On 21 December 2021, a news article reported:

“Meanwhile, Dr Siew of Cent-GPS said Malaysia should use this incident as motivation to focus on cutting down emissions, stopping deforestation and creating a dialogue with the masses.

“The government must enact a climate change act which will give an integrated approach, from the policy-level to our disaster response. It’s also a way to integrate the role of society and NGOs in organising support for disaster response,” he added.”

It is a very important lesson indeed. This is what Singapore ought to do as well since we are located in the monsoon zone together with Malaysia.

Floods in Kuantan, Malaysia, caused by torrential downpour on 16 December 2021 (Source: Wikipedia)
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