KUALA LUMPUR: If you think there have been more thunderstorms lately, you are not mistaken.
A study of Greater Kuala Lumpur over the past three decades found that thunderstorms had indeed increased by around 30% in intensity and frequency, said Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia climatologist Professor Fredolin Tangang.
Greater Kuala Lumpur covers the Federal Territory itself, Ampang, Batu Caves, Gombak, Ulu Klang, Petaling Jaya, Puchong and Sungai Buloh.
He said the combination of La Nina, global warming and climate change is a recipe for more frequent localized or isolated thunderstorms.
The phenomenon usually occurs in the late afternoon after the heat builds up, starting in the morning, causing towering clouds to form.
“This process is normal but with La Nina present the frequency and intensity may increase due to the availability of more moisture.
“Global warming and climate change can enhance this process because the extra heat can fuel more thunderstorms,” he explained.
Hartono Zainal Abidin, an independent expert on severe weather and lightning, said La Nina and climate change are also leading to more lightning strikes and cyclones.
“We are seeing more cyclones happening.
“A cyclone normally begins with a region of low pressure. As the wind speed increases, it will become a tropical depression, which is a dangerous tropical storm.
“If the wind speed is even higher, it will lead to a typhoon or even a super typhoon,” he said.
A tropical storm, he explained, is much stronger than your average daily thunderstorm.
“Thunderstorms involve a localized area while a tropical storm or cyclone is a large circulating weather system that can occur from coast to coast.
“We have had three named tropical storms or cyclones affecting the peninsula in the past 20 years.
“The first was in 2001 in Johor, called Mini-Typhoon Vamei. The second, in Penang in 2017, called Tropical Depression 29W, and the third, which happened last December in Selangor (Tropical Depression 29W),” said he declared.
He added that these are clear signs that tropical storms will recur in the region.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Meteorological Department of Malaysia (MetMalaysia), Muhammad Helmi Abdullah, said the current weather conditions are driven by northeasterly winds which have started blowing weakly.
“The country is at the end of the northeast monsoon and the winds are blowing rather lightly now.
“The warm sunny morning weather, especially on the west coast of the peninsula, is causing active convection.
“This scenario causes cumulonimbus clouds to form easily and thus cause heavy rain, thunderstorms and high winds in the afternoon.
“Generally, the northeast monsoon will be over by the end of March each year.
“The monsoon transition will then begin until early May and during this period thunderstorms will be more frequent in the afternoon and early evening, especially on the west coast of the peninsula, western Sarawak and western Sabah,” he said.
Chairman of the Alliance for a Safe Community, Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, called on the public to always be in a state of preparedness and not to take the unpredictable weather conditions lightly.
“After the 2004 tsunami and the 2015 Mount Kinabalu earthquake and the recent tremors felt due to the Sumatra earthquake, we must never be complacent,” he said.
To mitigate the risk, Lee said it was essential that more security audits be carried out by the relevant authorities.
“Non-governmental organizations that advocate for public health and safety should raise public awareness through education and training.
“If the public is unprepared when disaster strikes, the consequences will be horrific,” he said.