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Philippines - Climate

The Philippines has a tropical marine climate dominated by the Amihan season or the cool northeast monsoon and a "summer" dry season. Technically, however, there is no summer season in the Philippines and other tropical countries. Only northern parts of Asia, America, Australia and Europe experience "summer". The summer monsoon brings heavy rains to most of the archipelago from May to October, whereas the winter monsoon brings cooler and drier air from December to February.

The first half of the year, from January to May, is the best time to visit the country. November to February is cool, while March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September characterized by typhoons. Average temperature is 78 degrees F/25 degrees C; average humidity is 77%. Some parts of the country such as Cebu, are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.

Manila and most of the lowland areas are hot and dusty from March to May. Even at this time, however, temperatures rarely rise above 37°C. Mean annual sea-level temperatures rarely fall below 27 °C. Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters in the mountainous east coast section of the country, but less than 1,000 millimeters in some of the sheltered valleys.

Monsoon rains, although hard and drenching, are not normally associated with high winds and waves. But the Philippines does sit astride the typhoon belt, and it suffers an annual onslaught of dangerous storms from July through October. These are especially hazardous for northern and eastern Luzon and the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions, but Manila gets devastated periodically as well.

The Philippines has suffered severely from natural disasters. In 1990 alone, Central Luzon was hit by both a drought, which sharply curtailed hydroelectric power, and by a typhoon that flooded practically all of Manila's streets. Still more damaging was an earthquake that devastated a wide area in Luzon, including Baguio and other northern areas. The city of Cebu and nearby areas were struck by a typhoon that killed more than a hundred people, sank vessels, destroyed part of the sugar crop, and cut off water and electricity for several days.

Building construction is undertaken with natural disasters in mind. Most rural housing has consisted of nipa huts that are easily damaged but are inexpensive and easy to replace. Most urban buildings are steel and concrete structures designed (not always successfully) to resist both typhoons and earthquakes. Damage is still significant, however, and many people are displaced each year by typhoons, earthquakes, and other natural disasters. In 1987 alone the Department of Social Welfare and Development helped 2.4 million victims of natural disasters.

The Philippines is vulnerable to the El Niño phenomenon that induces drought and delays the onset of monsoon rains. This results in drinking water scarcity in urban areas and shortfalls in hydro-electricity generation because of reduced water levels in major dams. Further, during drought events there is less water available for household use, income losses, increased waterborne disease, and diminished water quality. There were eight drought events between 1970 and 2009, which together affected more than 6.5 million people and caused an economic loss of USD $353 million.

Monsoon rains are those not associated with an organized named storm, but they can nonetheless be very damaging to the many low lying, marginally developed areas in the country. Annual rains are expected in the Philippines. However, unusually strong monsoon events have recently combined with urban development that blocks traditional flooding channels to create a hazard in vulnerable urban communities. For example, monsoon rains in 2012 brought Manila to a standstill as 80 percent of the city was submerged, 157 people died, and 35,762 people were left homeless.

Due to the number of typhoons generated in the region annually, the country has gained the name: Asia’s typhoon welcome mat. Typhoons are both the most common and most destructive natural disasters in the Philippines. Annually, approximately 80 typhoons develop above tropical waters, of which an estimated 20 enter the Philippine region and six to nine make landfall, according to the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC).

There are several factors, some natural and some man-made, that increase the country’s vulnerability to typhoons. The warm equatorial ocean waters of the western Pacific, large coastal populations, and underdeveloped infrastructure in the Philippines lead to increased vulnerability and risk levels. In total, the Philippines experienced 88 typhoons between 2004 and 2014 resulting in 18,015 deaths, 43,840 injuries, 70,844,704 affected, and USD $13.7 billion in damages.68 This level of exposure and destruction is highly unusual. As a result, typhoons are widely considered the top priority for disaster management professionals in the country.

On November 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan — said to be the strongest storm in recorded history — made landfall in the central Philippines, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that have resulted in flooding, landslides, and widespread damage. The storm - known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines - was one of the most powerful typhoons ever to make landfall, bringing heavy rains and sustained winds of up to 195 miles per hour, and a resulting storm surge that caused near complete destruction in many coastal areas of East Samar and Leyte provinces.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reports place the number of affected people at 13.28 million. As of 22 November 2013, Haiyan had caused 4,015 deaths and 4,330,502 displacements. Housing damage reports indicate 536,313 homes completely destroyed with another 549,133 partially damaged. An estimated 10 million people were affected across 44 provinces in the Philippines, according to the Philippine National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Center (NDRRMC).

The devastation in infrastructure wrought by typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) imposed additional challenges to the Philippines. The master plan entitled “Yolanda Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan” which was submitted to President Aquino in August 2014, details the $3.9 billion major rehabilitation projects covering infrastructure, resettlement, livelihood, social services, climate change, and disaster preparedness.

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Page last modified: 07-04-2017 19:38:41 ZULU