The Sound of the Rain

20th-Aprl-2014-A few months ago, a video clip of Parliamentarians  discussing the environmental impact of farming on the tourism industry made the rounds in Cameron Highlands cyberspace. For many locals, it was difficult to watch that even in the august House of Parliament , Cameron Highland’s problems were taken so lightly and discussions, shallow. One of the  comments made was that Cameron Highlands is no longer cold.

So what exactly is the weather like in Cameron Highlands nowadays? Has it gone a little weird?  Is it warmer, colder, wetter or drier? Are the changes partly due to the global warming phenomena or  are they due to the loss of the buffering effect of  our highland forests or a combination of both? Do we have any data to substantiate what we say about the local weather?

If the subject of law is difficult to comprehend, the subject of weather is more so for we have nature’s wrath and unpredictability to contend with.

Below is a simple interpretation of the raw weather data of Cameron Highlands which dates back more than 55 years ago and attempts to answer the common questions pertaining to the weather in Cameron Highlands

Q 1: Is  Cameron Highlands getting warmer?

The data that we have compiled is from 2 weather stations. From 1965 to 1983 the data were from the station located at 1471m above sea level M.S.L. , 4˚28’N 101˚23’E while the subsequent years up to 2013 were from the 2nd weather station located at 1545 M.S.L,4˚28’N  101˚22’E. Strangely the temperatures recorded at the lower weather station were lower than the one at a higher elevation.

Referring to the chart below, at a glance Cameron Highlands appears to be getting less cold. The lowest minimum temperature has risen from around 10 degrees Celcius to 15 degrees Celcius while the average minimum temperature has also risen slightly.

 To the locals (applicable to non smokers only) it means “ Dulu kadang kadang bila cakap , ada asap keluar dari mulut , sekarang tak adok”     “ Previously sometimes when we talk, vapour comes out from our mouths, now there is none!”

 

Data of Cameron Highlands Annual Temperature

24hr mean Mean max Mean min Highest max Lowest Min
1965 17.70 21.90 14.00
1966 17.90 22.10 14.50
1967 17.60 21.70 14.20
1968 17.80 22.10 14.60 26.40 9.70
1969 18.00 22.10 14.80 25.60 8.30
1970 17.90 22.00 14.80 25.10 11.10
1971 17.50 21.50 14.40 24.40 11.00
1972 17.80 22.10 14.60 24.70 8.10
1973 17.80 22.40 14.70 25.50 9.80
1974 17.40 22.00 14.30 24.80 9.70
1975 17.30 22.10 14.20 25.90 8.80
1976 17.20 22.00 14.00 25.50 9.30
1977 17.70 22.20 14.60 26.30 9.80
1978 17.80 22.30 14.70 26.00 7.80
1979 17.90 22.40 14.80 25.30 9.40
1980 17.80 22.20 15.00 25.40 10.60
1981 17.80 22.40 14.70 25.30 9.70
1982 17.80 22.20 14.90 25.90 10.70
1983 18.30 22.70 15.30 26.10 11.30
1984 17.66 21.35 14.86 24.60 12.00
1985 17.78 14.86 24.60 10.90
1986 17.90 21.54 15.04 24.60 11.30
1987 18.34 21.92 15.29 25.30 11.80
1988 18.13 21.73 15.31 25.60 12.40
1989 17.67 21.57 14.80 25.00 10.00
1990 18.03 22.17 15.18 26.70 11.60
1991 17.83 22.38 15.45 26.20 12.70
1992 17.73 22.43 15.33 26.50 12.70
1993 17.66 22.48 15.33 25.30 12.20
1994 17.68 22.38 15.34 25.90 12.30
1995 17.87 22.73 15.49 26.50 13.20
1996 17.74 22.57 15.25 26.40 11.40
1997 17.98 22.93 15.39 25.70 12.80
1998 18.52 23.44 15.91 27.90 12.80
1999 17.62 22.24 15.31 25.60 12.70
2000 17.80 22.70 15.30 26.20 11.60
2002 18.20 23.30 15.30 24.40 14.40
2003 17.80 22.60 15.30 24.20 14.80
2004 18.00 23.00 15.30 24.40 14.90
2005 18.20 22.90 15.40 24.30 14.60
2006 17.90 22.50 15.30 23.50 14.70
2007 17.90 22.40 15.30 23.60 14.30
2008 17.80 22.20 15.20 22.70 13.70
2009 17.80 22.10 15.30 23.10 14.30
2010 18.10 22.70 15.40 23.90 14.80
2011 17.70 22.00 15.20 22.80 14.40
2012 18.10 22.50 15.50 23.10 14.80
2013 18.30 22.50 15.80 23.60 15.00

 

Meanwhile the highest maximum temperature and the average maximum temperature which is around 22.4 degrees Celcius has not risen significantly . The 24 hour mean temperature too has not risen significantly hovering around 18 degrees Celcius, So in other words according to this set of data Cameron Highlands is not getting warmer (Please note that there are limitations to this conclusion. It is overly simple, some data in the earlier years and 2001 is missing and the data are from 2 different stations which are only slightly apart but  at different elevations. For a more detailed analysis please read Miss Erica Jenkin’s very interesting report on the weather in Cameron Highlands. Miss Erica is a marine biologist and a volunteer for REACH)

How is it possible that Cameron Highlands is getting less cold but not getting warmer? This is because the range of fluctuation of the temperature is getting smaller. (Please refer to graph)

Can we deduce that there is not much change in the weather based on figures alone? Are biological indicators indicating otherwise? Are the lowland birds such as the mynas and magpie robins migrating here due to the warmer weather or are they migrating here due to the loss of habitat in  the lowlands? That they are here is without a doubt as they are very commonly seen now. Are the mossy forest  cover contracting and moving higher up due to a change in the local weather? Are the Aedes mosquitoes which breed prolifically in the low lands migrating up as well?What about the reptiles, the amphibians and the homo sapiens? Are they migrating too? So many questions ,so few answers.

Many more studies need to be done and we welcome research on these from individuals or groups.( For those who are interested please contact Miss Saras at Reach office tel: 054914798 9am to 12.30pm or email at nitiya31880@yahoo.com.sg)

Q2. Are we getting less or more rainfall?

 Referring to the chart below which we have complied from 60 years of rainfall data , again from the 2 stations above, there appears to be a slight increase in annual rainfall in the last decade . The average annual rainfall is around 2674mm while the highest recorded was in 2008 with 3951mm and  1999 with 3707 mm  , both of which coincided with the global La Niňa phenomena. The lowest recorded was in 1983 with 1985 mm of rainfall.

 

(The raw data is also included for those who might be interested in doing their own statistical analysis.)

Mean Monthly R.F Annual R.F
1951 258.0 3096.4
1952 218.4 2621.0
1953 206.5 2446.2
1954 209.2 2510.5
1955 220.2 2642.8
1956 262.7 3152.5
1957 227.0 2723.8
1958 175.1 2101.0
1959 201.2 2414.5
1960 200.6 2407.1
1961 207.9 2494.7
1962 252.5 3030.0
1963 179.3 2151.2
1964 201.3 2415.6
1965 231.8 2781.7
1966 250.2 3002.1
1967 179.9 2159.2
1968 176.3 2116.0
1969 228.2 2738.1
1970 230.4 2764.2
1971 230.7 2767.9
1972 237.1 2844.7
1973 231.0 2771.8
1974 195.6 2347.7
1975 235.7 2828.3
1976 200.5 2406.2
1977 172.9 2074.7
1978 181.9 2182.2
1979 192.4 2308.7
1980 205.8 2469.3
1981 177.1 2124.6
1982 213.5 2561.5
1983 165.5 1985.5
1984 253.5 3042.4
1985 219.3 2632.0
1986 194.6 2335.7
1987 210.2 2522.9
1988 241.2 2894.9
1989 219.1 2628.9
1990 190.2 2282.0
1991 224.0 2687.6
1992 194.8 2338.1
1993 266.2 3194.7
1994 225.6 2706.8
1995 252.8 3033.4
1996 258.7 3104.6
1997 225.8 2709.1
1998 199.9 2398.5
1999 308.9 3707.1
2000 264.3 3172.0
2002 234.7 2816.6
2003 248.0 2975.8
2004 201.0 2411.6
2005 241.0 2891.8
2006 231.4 2777.1
2007 247.7 2972.3
2008 329.3 3951.6
2009 254.3 3051.2
2010 204.3 2451.0
2011 275.8 3310.1

Although the changes might be small , the implications are huge. Due to the already high rainfall, the steep terrain of Cameron Highlands and the nature of the soil, the erosion rate is 150 metric tons/hectare per year in some areas. With the forest cover here being lost at an unprecedented rate, any increase in rainfall will result in an increased risk of landslides and flooding.

Q3. Has the rainy and dry season changed?

There do not appear to much variation in the rainy and dry seasons over the last 60 years.  There are 2 peak periods of increased rainfall with the months of October having the highest amount at 346mm and November at 323mm of rainfall. This coincides with the North-East monsoon. The other peak is in the months of April with mean rainfall at 281mm and May at 272mm. This coincides with the South –West monsoon.  The dry months are in January and February with 119 and 115 mm of rain respectively.

As expected the amount of rainfall is related to the number of rain days.

This seasonal  variation is important because it influences the entire ecosystem of the place, from the flowering patterns of the orchids, the pollination cycle, the ripening of the fruits to the maturing of the vegetables in the agricultural industry .

 

 

There are many more queries on the weather but it will be dealt with in another article lest I confuse myself further with all those figures.

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I love the sound of the rain. The pitter patter of the raindrops, the flashes of lightning followed by the distant rumbling of the thunder. The rain bathes the whole land with life giving water. To me it is a comforting sound. Nearby the caterpillar would be sheltering on the underside of the leaves, the freshwater crab would be burrowing into the mud in the mountain stream and snakes, lizards and frogs will be in their hidey holes or beneath the foliage and bracken. When the rain passes the spider hunter would perch on a branch and give itself a good shake to dry itself. The mist would form in the valleys and the rainbows would come and say ‘” Hey everyone, I am back”

 

 The above article is from Dr Cheam May Choo’s Blog