Bracing for extreme weatherThe National Emergency Management Agency advised people to immediately phone the 119 emergency hotline for help in cases of heat exhaustion and sunstrokes as the nation was hit by a sweltering heat wave. Warnings of heat waves were issued across the nation as the daytime mercury neared the boiling point of over 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) in most regions.
A heat wave during the rainy season is part of ominous signs of changes in our climate. The summer saw an earlier-than-usual heat wave, dry rainy season, and the early arrival of typhoons. Typhoon Neoguri, which was headed toward the Korean Peninsula, changed direction toward Japan and wreaked havoc on its southern islands. Over 60 were injured from floods and landslides in Japan. Typhoons have become more frequent and arrived earlier than in previous summers.
The rainy season was 10 days late. It is the first time in 22 years that the monsoon season began in early July. Yet rainfall was limited, causing drought in central regions. The nationwide precipitation rate stopped at 77 millimeters (3 inches), just half of last year’s level. Water became short not only for farming but also drinking in some areas.
Ill effects from global warming have raised environmental risks across the world. The weather phenomenon El Nino has returned to the Pacific Ocean, bringing heavy rains and flooding that claimed lives and left thousands homeless in southeast Peru. The El Nino phenomenon is accompanied by torrential rains and severe drought from unusually warm surface temperatures in the ocean in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. The last time it affected the country was back in late 1990s. The World Meteorological Organization warned that there was up to an 80 percent chance of an El Nino event in the second half.
A Super Typhoon has not hit the Korean Peninsula since 2003. The country avoided major natural disasters over the last two to three years. Killer typhoon Haiyan, which smashed into the Philippines and China last November, brushed past the peninsula. But if we let our guards down, damages could be greater from unexpected weather calamities.
The government and weather authority must draw up a long-term plan to address climate changes from global warming. Japan has been responding to disasters under a 30-year plan. Immediately, both central and local governments should attend to damages from any extreme heat wave and unusual weather conditions such as torrential rains or dry spells. The country cannot afford a double whammy of a natural calamity following the manmade Sewol ferry disaster.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 12, Page 30