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Timor - Climate

Timor-Leste has a tropical, hot and humid climate. Its climate is affected by the West Pacific Monsoon. December to April is the wet season on Timor-Leste, and the dry season lasts for six months, between June and October; these seasons are very distinct. The temperature year round tends to stay between 75 ºF and 86 ºF (24 ºC and 30 ºC). For most of the wet season average monthly rainfall is above 100 mm per month while in the dry season it is less than 30 mm per month.55 Timor-Leste suffers periodically from significant El Niño droughts which interrupts its normally heavy rainfall.

Timor-Leste is affected by two sets of monsoonal conditions: the Northwest (wet monsoon) brings storms and flooding and the Southeast (dry monsoon) causes strong winds and cyclones to form in the south of the island. La Nina and El Nino also contribute to flooding and cyclones. Floods and cyclones on the island contribute heavily to infrastructure damage and food insecurity. Additionally, floods are the most frequently occurring and the most deadly natural disaster.

Timor-Leste faces multiple potential threats to population health, food security, and development due to climate change. Increased climate variability will severely affect vulnerable groups, especially the impoverished and displaced persons. Climate change has already begun to affect agriculture and food production. Communities in coastal regions, including the capital city of Dili, are in danger of flooding from rising sea levels, and natural hazards could occur more frequently. Timorese citizens have already reported hotter dry seasons, shorter and unpredictable rain reasons, more frequent extreme rainfall, and sea water intrusion.

Though there is limited history of climate conditions in Timor-Leste due to Indonesian, Japanese, and Portuguese occupation, records kept from 1950-2009 reflect sea surface temperatures in the region have increased by 0.15-0.2°C per decade; air temperatures have most likely increased by a similar amount. The sea level in the region has risen by about 9mm per year since 1993, much larger than the global average of 2.8-3.6 mm per year. Future projections predict increasingly warm air temperatures, leading to very hot days, which affect crop health; extreme rainfall is predicted, though the frequency in drought will remain unaffected; rising sea levels present a threat to coastal cities and communities; and ocean acidification is projected to increase and threaten coral reef ecosystems. Increased flooding as a result of extreme rainfalls contributes to food shortages and the spread of waterborne diseases. The effects of climate change on food supplies and natural hazards will be the most detrimental to Timor-Leste in the future.

In 2013, the Timor-Leste Government put in place fishing measures and other protective measures to enable the replenishment of fish stocks and protecting coral reefs. The measures are designed to preserve Timor-Leste’s marine based reserves, which is necessary for food security and economic development of Timor-Leste. This will help facilitate climate resilience, serve as reef fish spawning sites, enable fisheries replenishment, and protect dive and snorkel sites.

Climate projections for Timor-Leste suggest the following:

  • By 2030, temperatures are expected to increase by 0.4-1.0 degrees Celsius;
  • Dry season rainfall will decrease while wet season rainfall will increase. There will be little change in the frequency of droughts in this century;
  • Extreme rainfalls are likely to occur more often while there will be a decrease in the number of tropical cyclones;
  • By 2030, the sea level is expected to rise between 6-15 centimeters; and
  • The sea-level rise combined with natural year to year changes will make more noticeable the impact of storm surges and coastal flooding.

Most Timorese citizen’s livelihood is dependent on agriculture; the industry employs around 65 percent of the population. This makes the population extremely vulnerable to food loss and insecurity. Agriculture consistently produces less food than is needed by the population due to poor soil and climate conditions. The number of households that face food insecurity in Timor-Leste stands at 64-70 percent. Almost all of the natural hazards affecting Timor-Leste contribute to food vulnerability. In addition to the hazards described above, Timor-Leste has experienced serious drought and locust infestations that have significantly damaged crops and seriously contributed to food loss and vulnerability.

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