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The first drops of rain in a long time

August 21, 2012

During less than one hour yesterday we received 34 mm of rain, and then another 12 mm during the night. Combined with the weekend’s drizzle of 3 mm we have recently received a total of 49 mm or 49 liters of precipitation per square meter (almost 2 million litres for Dokmai Garden). Huzzah!

The past unexpected drought in the midst of the growing season disrupted normal growth and some teaks had already begun shedding their leaves prematurely. If the coming few days deliver more rain or at least overcast, this splatter will last a week and the Chiang Mai gardeners can go on planting vaster areas since a humid atmosphere is crucial for successful plant establishment.

The Dokmai Garden quarry still looks like a crater since the surrounding land was dry and sucked water like a sponge, but if we experience more rain then northern and northeast Thailand’s water reservoirs may start filling up in time for the real dry season which begins soon – in October-November.

A quick look at the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Climate Prediction Center’s website reveals that July’s neutral conditions may turn into ‘El Nino’ = a drought in Thailand in 2012-2013.

During the recent Mae Sot flooding some farang news sources located in Thailand hopefully declared ‘another year of flooding’ and many comments from uneducated indoor farangs talked about the government’s inability to apprehend the ‘signs of flooding’.

Instead of reading vulgar news sources mainly focused on sex, murder, accidents and the occasional natural disaster which occurs every year somewhere in Thailand due to the erratic weather patterns, I urge the foreign settlers to follow the scientific discussion (see link above) and more balanced news sources, and to observe ‘signs’ with your own eyes.

Asking the local farmers for ‘signs’ is not very helpful. When I was a freshman in Southeast Asia during the rainy season I noticed after a couple of days that the wind and rains came from the Southwest, and innocently I asked the locals if this was normal. Their answer was that wind and rain may come from any direction. They had lived a whole life here without observing a pattern, and most farmers are unaware of phenomenons like the monsoon and ENSO, believing witchcraft causes natural disasters and disease, and that prayers and offerings will make a change.

In spite of the Mae Sot incident the weak monsoon of 2012 has caused a drought affecting most of northern and northeastern Thailand and also many parts of the Indian subcontinent. The prognosis is that it may worsen, but for the moment those who got rain should rejoice.

Eric Danell

7 Comments leave one →
  1. David Cooke permalink
    August 21, 2012 11:42 AM

    Well you are lucky, we got about 20mm in the last two weeks. The small farmers in the region here that have no irrigation equipment are looking at rice fields that have gone completely yellow. They tell me that these crops are more or less done for.
    I also am surprised by a general lack of knowledge/interest for weather lore, I seem to be better at predicting whether rain is coming or not as well as for how long by using the same pointers I learnt in Switzerland.

    • August 21, 2012 3:02 PM

      Thanks David for this report!

      We encourage more reports from other parts of monsoon Southeast Asia. Ketsanee spoke to her hometown Roi-Et and she says the farmers have already lost their rice. Normally they produce enough to support their own family, but due to the drought they have to buy their rice until November 2013, and at a higher price than normal. Their great worry is how they are going to afford this. This is more serious news than today’s headline ‘Swede killing New Zealander in Pattaya’.

  2. Shashidhar Sastry permalink
    August 21, 2012 1:37 PM

    Well it appears that most of the regions in India are defecit as far as South West Monsoon is concerned. There definitely a shift in the pattern of rainfall and its distribution. However, the total quantum may really not show the correct picture as the heavy downpours which were earlier unheard of is causing additional problems. If the cropping pattern (as in major part of India) depends on tropical monsoon and if there is delay or deficit then the total area under crop will automatically goes down and have a cascading effect on other related things. Even though contingency plans of short duration crops etc is taken up it is unlike the main one on which everything depends. Indeed it is difficult to predict tropical monsoon accurately but the fact remains that a fall back plan should be put into operation at the earliest. Hope there will be some revival (though it is late !) and will reduce the hardship.

    • August 21, 2012 2:41 PM

      Thank you very much Shashidhar Sastry for this report! Indeed rainfall in mm does not tell you much about its distribution. One heavy rain is not as useful as several smaller ones evenly distrubuted during a month. This year we had a scarcity of both rainy days and amount of rain fall.

      More reports from India and monsoon Southeast Asia are welcome!


    • David Cooke permalink
      August 21, 2012 2:42 PM

      Good news for speculators in rice prices, Thai government stocks of rice to be auctioned off soon. (Probably at a loss).

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