Malaysia: Warming, Flooding Mega-Wildfires

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” … upward trend in both annual and seasonal rainfall…”

“The maximum length of dry spell also shows an upward trend…”

“….hundreds were swept to their death by a
sudden furious midnight river flooding on
Christmas eve.

“At the other extreme were protracted droughts and mega forest
infernos…”
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DAILY EXPRESS (Sabah, Malaysia)
06 November, 2008

Proof of climate change in Sabah

Kota Kinabalu: There are distinct, measurable signs and actual
events of global warming in Malaysia and Sabah, according to
Prof. Dr Felix Tongkul, Centre for Natural Disaster Studies,
Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS). “Consistent with changes in the
other parts of the world, surface temperature in most areas in
Malaysia has been showing an upward trend since the last four
decades at rate 2.7 to 4 degrees centigrade per hundred years,”
said Prof. Tongkul.

“There is also an upward trend in both annual and seasonal
rainfall associated with an increasing trend in maximum daily
rainfall,” he noted.

“The maximum length of dry spell also shows an upward trend,”
he said at the seminar on Modelling of Climate Change and Its
Impact on Vegetation at the UMS.

Climate change has hit Malaysia quite hard by intensifying the
monsoons and storms, he said. He cited the two dominant monsoons-
the northeast and the southwest monsoons. This is manifested in
a “high level of precipitation and associated flooding in
Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah too in 2006 and 2007, Prof.
Tongkul said.

“This climate change is thought to have caused the abnormal
monsoon in 2006 and have contributed to the extreme weather
events responsible for some major natural disasters experienced
in Malaysia.”

In Sabah, he cited Storm Greg which caused havoc across the
State in 1996 but particularly tragic in Keningau when hundreds
were swept to their death by a sudden furious midnight river
flooding on Christmas eve.

At the other extreme were protracted droughts and mega forest
infernos, he said. “Lack of precipitation and associated
drought and forest fires in Sabah in 1983 and 1998.”

Scientists look for detectable and measurable evidence.

So, what’s happening in the climate change front?

“There are already things that can be measured like increase in
temperature for example and increase in rainfall not yet but the
events are more irregular,” said Dr Michael Fischer, Chief Technical Advisor of the
German Society of Technical Cooperation-main financier of the Malaysian-German
Forestry Education Project.

“We have more and more extreme events and these extreme events
are more frequent and they become more extreme that leads to
more and more flooding, be it here in the tropics as well as in
Germany where we come from,” Dr Fischer asserted.

“In Germany, we have century flooding. Now we have century
flooding every five years!”

“So things are changing, mainly the extremes,” Dr Fischer said.

“I noted Dr Tongkul’s presentation about severe flooding in Peninsular Malaysia that
did not happen before in this strength,” he said.

The whole focus of the seminar was on climate change and its
impact on vegetation.

But what has Dr Fischer got to say on a somewhat anti-climatic
remark uttered in closing by UMS Vice Chancellor Prof. Datuk
Dr Karamuzaman that the impact of Climate Change on vegetation
(in Sabah?) remains “vague” ?

Fischer agrees it is not detectable yet in Sabah but Germany
is seeing “problems” already.

One reason why Germans feel more pressing about the issue.

But the contrasting observation actually open up a smart idea
on where to look first for evidence and study the issue, that
is, damage tends to start at more sensitive environments-glaciers,  temperate
forests, high places, etc.

In other words, the beginning and the end.

Where the starting premise is right, the conclusion is likely to
follow suit-a basic tenet in logic.

In other words, tropical men must never sit back and think
retreating glaciers in the Himalayas or the Andes will not
eventually make its final impact on Sabah. It will be just a
matter of when.

“That means our main species spruce cannot grow any more in
some of the driest areas and so we are getting problems.”

“Spruce will be affected when it is weakened by a bark beetle
because of the dry conditions. So there are already observations
of vegetative changes,” Dr Fischer said.

Copyright © Daily Express, Sabah, Malaysia

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