18 January 2017

Philippine Climate Change and the Decreasing Cold in Lipa City

Uptown Lipa City. Image credit:  Google Earth Street View.

Anyone who is Lipa City born and raised, especially in the latter half of the twentieth century, knows as a matter of course that January – and sometimes on through February – has always tended to be colder than the holiday season in December. Particularly before the turn of the millennium, this is the time when brisk winds from Siberia bring down temperatures not just in Lipa but elsewhere in the country.

Lipa being just over a thousand feet above sea level, however, the temperatures here rather tend to be a degree or two Celsius lower than most everywhere else in the country. Consequently, this is the time of the year when the warm clothes and the thick blankets come out from the cabinet.

Exactly how brisk the winds can be, the players of my football teams in the eighties and nineties know all too well. The football field at DLSL, where I used to coach, is oriented north to south. At the height of the windy northeasterly season, long balls punted forward from the south end of the field could not even reach the halfway line, pushed back as they were by the cold whistling winds.

Of course, temperatures drop as well, especially after sunset. Particularly in the sixties through the nineties, I sometimes went to bed wearing two jogging pants one on top of the other and a jacket. When it was particularly cold, sometimes I went to bed under two blankets, which I would drag over my head at dawn when the temperatures were at their lowest. Some in my family even went to bed wearing socks to insulate their feet against the cold.

Nights like these, I fear, are becoming a thing of the past. Like my late father, I am a compulsive weather watcher; and I look at the room thermometer several times a day by force of habit. Three years ago, I posted on Facebook complaining about the 23ºC temperature one night between seven or eight o’clock. Naturally, this meant that the temperature would plummet to as low as 16ºC or 17ºC early the next morning.

In the three years hence, however, I seldom saw the temperature drop below 25ºC and not once to 23ºC in the seven to eight o’clock window at night. Consequently, I have not felt the need to put on cotton jogging pants before going to sleep. Even for the wee hours of the morning, one blanket has sufficed.

Last year was El Niño year, so the mild cold season was expectable. But the El Niño has receded; and though PAGASA predicted last year that this cold season would be colder than last year’s, there has been no real evidence of this. Lipa continues to be cool, but “cold” is becoming woefully inaccurate. You see evidence of this outdoors even during the daytime when fewer people wear warmer clothes.

Global warming is, of course, something that scientists have talked about for a few decades now. Data from PAGASA tells us that the declining cold in Lipa may be a continuing trend not just in the city but elsewhere in the country. From 1951 to 2010, average daily temperatures had increased by 0.648ºC or 0.0108ºC annually from normal values observed from 1971-2000. This would have increased to 0.7128ºC by the end of 2016 if the annual value remained constant.

In other words, if for example the average normal daily temperature from 1971-2000 was at 28ºC, this would have become, by the end of 2016, 28.7128ºC or 29ºC rounded off.

Moreover, from data observed over the last 60 years, it has been determined that the average maximum daytime temperature has increased by 0.36ºC while the average minimum nighttime temperature has also increased by 1.0ºC.1 In practical terms, that 1ºC can be the difference why one goes to bed wearing shorts and a thin shirt or puts on jogging pants and a sweat shirt.

Of course in Lipa – as it is in Baguio City and, to a certain extent, Tagaytay – global warming is exacerbated by the so-called urban heat island effect. It is well and good to have large malls in the city and a Jollibee or McDonald’s at every street corner. On the downside, the modification of land surfaces due to increasing urbanization – i.e. the construction of roads and buildings – is the leading cause for the urban heat island effect, along with waste heat generated by energy usage.2

The climate in Lipa continues to be pleasant if not outright cold during the cold season like it used to be in the old days. Implicit to the decline in the cold, however, is that the summer months are also much hotter than they used to be.

Notes and references:
1 “Climate Change in the Philippines,” online at PAGASA.
2 “Urban heat island,” Wikipedia.

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