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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Weather forecasters can’t issue warning systems for heat as they do with storms. Here’s why

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A ranking official from the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) told a Senate panel on Tuesday it would be tough on the weather forecasters to recommend guidelines for the cancellation of classes based on heat index.

“It’s sort of difficult to decide on our end, but again, we do provide that kind of information and we do hope that different sectors will apply such… depending on the applications that they intend to,” said PAGASA Deputy Administrator for Research and Development Dr. Marcelino Villafuerte.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian brought up the idea during a hearing of the Senate committee on basic education on the impact of El Niño on schools after the recent suspension of in-person classes and shift to alternative delivery modes.

Gatchalian said he was only trying to avoid a scenario where local government unit (LGU) executives and school officials would have different parameters to guide their decisions in ordering the suspension of classes on the day itself.

The senator was hoping PAGASA would come up with something like storm warning signals during rainy seasons for assessing the potential impact of high temperatures as well in areas monitored in the climate heat index.

Villafuerte, meanwhile, said it would still take some time before the country experiences the onset of the rainy season. Citing latest PAGASA estimate, he said rains would come by June. He attributed this delay to the effects of El Niño.

The PAGASA official, however, warned that moving from the prevailing heat towards the onset of La Niña would also be challenging. Villafuerte said the public should expect thunderstorms in the middle of May amid the very hot weather.

“Pertaining to the rainy season, according to our study, during a dissipating El Niño there is a so-called ‘lag effect’ and then, (in) a developing La Niña, we are expecting a bit delayed onset of the rainy season. Typically, our rainy season starts by mid-May to at least mid-June,” Villafuerte explained.

Villafuerte believes that class suspensions are best left to the discretion of schools because it depends on the situation. Unlike in typhoons, Villafuerte said there is a weather bulletin that serves as basis for LGUs to issue advisories for students.

Since 2013, PAGASA has been posting heat index information in their website and other social media sites as part of its ongoing public information dissemination efforts. These are being sent to different agencies.

Villafuerte said information on the climate heat index was given less attention back then because the academic calendar of schools was different. The students were mostly observing summer break during the months of April to May.


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