Thailand’s Great Flood Likely to Peak this Weekend and Damage One Quarter of Rice Crop of World’s Top Exporter
No, the main headline wasn’t about Thailand — it was about El Salvador (as is the picture). We’ve been seeing twin uber-deluges this month on opposite sides of the Earth, both spurred by warming waters, as meteorologist and former hurricane hunter Dr. Jeff Masters explains on his blog.
The Thai floods have gotten more attention, because of their epic nature — and global economic impact on rice prices (see below). So let’s start with El Salvador and Central America:
“I want to tell the world that El Salvador is going through one of the most dramatic disasters in its history,” President Mauricio Funes said on national radio and television Wednesday night, as he appealed for international aid. A week of torrential rains across Central America have triggered extreme floods and landslides that have killed 105 people, according to media reports. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua have declared states of emergency due to the disaster. El Salvador and Guatemala have seen the worst flooding, with 34 and 38 people killed, respectively. Another 18 have died in Honduras, 13 in Nicaragua, and 5 in Costa Rica. The rains were due to a large area of low pressure that was moistened by the landfall of Tropical Depression 12-E near the Mexico/Guatemala border last week.
Contributing to the record-intensity rains were ocean temperatures off the coast of El Salvador that were 0.5 – 1°C above average during the first half of October, allowing more water vapor than usual to evaporate into the air. Over the past ten days, rainfall amounts of over a meter (39.4″) have fallen over a large area of southwest El Salvador (Figure 2.) At Huizucar, an astonishing 1.513 meters (4.96 feet) of rain fell in the past ten days.
Climatologist Kevin Trenberth explained the deluge-warming connection in an interview with Climate Progress last year:
I find it systematically tends to get underplayed and it often gets underplayed by my fellow scientists. Because one of the opening statements, which I’m sure you’ve probably heard is “Well you can’t attribute a single event to climate change.” But there is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms and it’s unfortunate that the public is not associating these with the fact that this is one manifestation of climate change. And the prospects are that these kinds of things will only get bigger and worse in the future.
The AFP reports that many in Central America do understand the connection between warming and deluging:
Officials have blamed the effects of global warming for the spate of deadly rains and flooding.
“Climate change is not something that is coming in the future, we are already suffering its effects,” said Raul Artiga with the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD).
Here’s a graphic of the “astonishing” amount of rain El Salvador has been hit by:
Rainfall [in mm] in El Salvador for the 10-day period ending on Friday, October 21, at 8 am EDT. At Huizucar, an astonishing 1.513 meters (4.96 feet) of rain fell during those ten days. Image credit: Hydrological Service of El Salvador.
Here’s the latest on the unfolding catastrophe in Thailand:
Thailand’s Great Flood likely to peak this weekend
The most damaging natural disaster in Thailand history is growing more serious, as the flood waters besieging the capital of Bangkok continue to overwhelm defenses and inundate the city. Heavy rains during September and October have led to extreme flooding that has killed 373 people and caused that nation’s most expensive natural disaster in history, with a cost now estimated at $6 billion. Thailand’s previous most expensive disaster was the $1.3 billion price tag of the November 27, 1993 flood, according to the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). Floodwaters have swamped fields and cities in a third of Thailand’s provinces, affected 9 million people, and damaged approximately 10% of the nation’s rice crop. Thailand is the world’s largest exporter of rice, so the disaster may put further upward pressure on world food prices, which are already at the highest levels since the late 1970s. The highest tide of the month occurs this weekend at 8:07 am ICT in the capital of Bangkok, and the additional pressure that incoming salt water puts on the flood walls protecting the city is a major concern. Fortunately, the monsoon has been quiet this week over Southeast Asia, and the latest GFS model precipitation forecast show little additional rain over the country in the coming week. Heavy monsoon rains are common in Thailand and Southeast Asia during La Niña events, and we currently have a weak La Niña event occurring.
Ocean temperatures in the waters surrounding Thailand during September and October have been approximately 0.3°C above average, which has increased rainfall amounts by putting more water vapor into the air. The remains of Tropical Storm Haitang and Typhoon Nesat also brought heavy rains in late September which contributed to the flooding.
Figure 3. Top ten most expensive natural disasters in Thailand since 1900, as tabulated by the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED). This month’s disaster (number one on the table above) is not yet in the CRED data base.
And here’s what the deluge is doing to food insecurity:
BANGKOK: Thailand may lose a quarter of its main rice crop in the nation’s worst flooding in decades, the government estimates, which could boost prices of the staple and further squeeze shipments from the world’s top exporter. The flood damage to rice comes at a time when Thailand, which accounts for about 30% of global trade, has in place an intervention scheme that is likely to push prices even higher, encouraging buyers to seek alternative origins.
A rally in the market for Asia’s main staple could stoke tensions across a region where several nations are struggling with a double-digit increase in food inflation, although ample global reserves and new supplies in the pipeline are expected to keep buyers calm for now.
“The 6 million tonnes damage (to rice paddy) is just an initial estimate. We need to conduct a survey again after flood water recedes,” Apichart Jongsakul, head of the Office of Agriculture Economy, told Reuters, adding that the figure, which is a 50% jump from early estimates, referred to the main crop.
As a result, Thailand may not be able to meet its rice export commitments to Indonesia, the Indonesian trade minister said on Friday, forcing Southeast Asia’s largest economy to explore other sources.
“I just received information that they (Thailand) don’t appear to be able to fulfill their commitment to sell and ship rice to Indonesia,” trade minister Gita Wirjawan said….
The worsening flood situation could cut Thai production to 19 million tonnes of paddy, Apichart said, nearly a quarter down from the previous forecast of 25 million. Thailand has a second smaller crop producing around 7 million tonnes a year.
Thailand has seen about 1.6 million hectares of farmland inundated, forcing the government to cut its estimate for this year’s main crop by 24%.
High Water is here.
- Virginia Deluge Was an “Off the Charts Above a 1000-year Rainfall,” Says National Weather Service
- “An Extreme Rainfall Event Unprecedented in Recorded History Has Hit the Binghamton, New York Area”
- Last year, we had Tennessee’s 1000-year deluge aka Nashville’s ‘Katrina’.
- Coastal North Carolina’s suffered its second 500-year rainfall in 11 years.
- Craig Fugate, who heads the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in December, “The term ’100-year event’ really lost its meaning this year” (see Munich Re: “The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change”).
- Northern Territory Chief Minister on Carlos’s deluge: “So a really one in 500 year event; nobody’s experienced anything like this before”
- High Water: Aussie inland tsunami labelled 1-in-370 year event
- In other UK news: “Rain like this happens once every 1,000 years”
- Yes, “human-induced increases in greenhouse gases have contributed to the observed intensification of heavy precipitation events” over much of the NH