Temperatures have remained above average this year and a prolonged dry spell has left over 200,000 in the Northern Province thirsting for safe drinking water. But, officials at the Meteorological Department (MD) and the Disaster Management Centre (DMC) say the impacts are manageable.
According to global weather forecasts the periodic warming of the Pacific Ocean called El Niño has now set in with most predicting it to be similar in strength to an occurrence in 1997. “The strong El Niño is expected to last until at least the end of the year before declining in the first quarter of 2016,” the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said in an update on 13 October.
However, some assessments also predict that South Asia was likely to receive above average rains in late 2015. “Countries on the equator can expect more rain, flooding and higher sea levels as El Niño takes hold,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says.
“We have analysed past weather patterns when El Niño was active and what we have seen is that in the last quarter of the year rains, in fact, increase in this part of the globe,” says L. Chandrapala, director-general of the MD. “More rains in the last quarter of the year would be welcome following a weak South West Monsoon — the monsoon was below 75 per cent this year.”
The failure of the rains and high temperatures have caused ground water resources to dwindle in the Northern Province. Over the last two months, the DMC has been supporting local authorities to deliver water to the worst-hit communities.
But, Chandrapala says Sri Lanka is now better prepared to deal with fluctuating climate trends that have resulted in frequent extreme weather events. “It is about long-term planning — we are better prepared than we were five years back.”
“So far, there is no sign that things will worsen, we have not received any warnings from the MD or the agriculture department of major crop losses,” Pradeep Koddiplili, DMC deputy director, tells SciDev.Net.
Sri Lanka has seen five major floods and four major droughts since 2010, attributed by changing climate.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.