Impact of an Unusual Dry Spell on the Energy Balance of a Residential Neighbourhood in a Tropical City

Monday, 15 December 2014
Erik Velasco1, Suraj Harshan2 and Matthias Roth2, (1)Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology (SMART), Singapore, Singapore, (2)National University of Singapore, Geography, Singapore, Singapore
Singapore experienced an unprecedented 2-month dry spell at the beginning of 2014. A paltry 0.2 mm of rain in February, compared to the long-term monthly average of 161 mm, resulted in the driest month since 1869. Clear symptoms of water stress were observed in the evergreen vegetation of Singapore’s garden city, a number of bush fires broke out in vegetated areas, water reservoirs shrank substantially in size, and the dry weather in the region triggered wildfires in neighboring countries. The fires in peninsular Malaysia combined with the prevailing north-easterly winds generated hazy conditions with subsequent deterioration of the local air quality. In response to this rare climatological event, and contrary to other countries in the region, little action was taken to preserve water in Singapore. Water consumption actually increased 5%, likely due to increased bathing for relief during the hot and hazy days and increased watering of managed green spaces.

The reasons which resulted in increased water consumption are investigated in this paper from a climatological point of view. Using eddy covariance flux measurements of the different radiative and non-radiate (latent and sensible heat) fluxes conducted over a low-rise neighborhood, the changes in the components of the energy balance associated with the dry spell are investigated. An increase of 17% in net radiation and drier daytime conditions produced an increase of 45% in sensible and reduction of 14% in latent heat fluxes, respectively. The heat stored in the urban canopy increased by 3% compared to previous years.

Although the projected impacts of climate change for Singapore are uncertain, an increase in frequency of dry periods like the 2014 episode are possible in Southeast Asia. A holistic approach, which includes aspects of the urban microclimate, is necessary to implement effective measures to reduce water demand and assure the water resilience of Singapore.