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Week 3: Singapores Weather & Climate

Singapore's climate is
classified as tropical
rainforest climate
(Kppen climate classific
ation Af), with no true
distinct seasons.

To understand the weather in Singapore (i.e. the daily

changes in temperature, rainfall, wind, haze, thunder,
lightening ete)
To understand the climate of Singapore (i.e. 30 years of

Chapter 4 of Friess & Oliver (2014)

The state of the atmosphere at a particular place
and time as regards heat, cloudiness, dryness,
sunshine, wind, rain, etc.
There are several elements that make up the
weather of a place.
Five major elements of weather are:
1) Temperature

2) Pressure
3) Wind

4) Humidity
5) Rain
Analysis of these elements can provide the basis
for forecasting weather and defining its climate.

The weather conditions prevailing in an area in
general or over a long period.
Climate is the average snow/rainfall, thunder,
lightning, wind, temperature, haze, ete of a
place over a long period of time
Climate is the average and variations of weather
over a long period of time (~30 years)

Singapore is Lat 1.5 o N. So the climate is


at the equinox


Equinox and Solstice

No summer or winter in Singapore

Twice a year, the angle is as big as it can get, at the summer &
winter solstices, i.e. 23.5 degrees. In the N Hem summer
(solstice = June 21) the north pole is inclined towards the Sun,
in the N Hem winter (solstice = Dec 21) it faces away from it.

In June, the N Hem experiences summer, the S Hem winter.

In Dec its the opposite. At the equator, Singapore
experiences ~12 hrs of day and night, and there is no
difference between a summer and winter

Climate Systems
Atmospheric circulation: warm air rises at
the Equator


Climate Systems
ITCZ = Inter-tropical
Atmosphere circulation cells
Corriolis force
Polar Cell




Inter-tropical Convergence Zone

In Jan, the Inter-Tropical Convergence zone is S of the equator

Winds in Singapore are from the NE:

Gives the NE Monsoon

NE and SW monsoons in Singapore are both wet

July: Southwesterly monsoon in

Wet monsoon in India
Hot wet summer in China
Hot summer in Siberia

Jan: Northeasterly monsoon in

Dry monsoon in India
Cold dry winter in China
Freezing winter in Siberia

NW Monsoon


SW Monsoon


Wet winds

Wet winds

Moist NE winds in SP

Light and variable winds Moist SW winds in SP



Not so wet


Learn this

Migration of the monsoon rain belt follows the

migration of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone

Singapore is wettest in December


Smoke haze in Singapore during August SW Monsoon

Haze July 2013


Smoke haze in Singapore during August SE Monsoon

Haze July 2013


The weather in Singapore

on 8th Jan 2006

After the Dec Solstice, the InterTropical Convergence Zone runs

near Singapore and its raining

Weather in
2nd Feb 2009

The ITCZ runs

through NW
Java. Its often
dry in Singapore
in the morning
and wet in the
late afternoon

Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (Monsoon Rain-Belt) runs through central Java

The result of all these effects is that Singapore

has a wet tropical monsoon climate
Av rainfall = 2.4 m/yr

Nov Jan = Wet Monsoon Season

Singapore rainfall is unevenly spread.

345mm rain in 20hrs


Why more rain in the center and north

of Singapore?
The weather in Singapore is dominated by rain clouds. Clouds are
formed by the condensation of water vapour into water droplets
or ice crystals in the atmosphere. The basic requirements for the
formation of a cloud are (a) moist air and (b) a lifting process.
These processes are: Condensation, Turbulence, Mass Ascent
(convection), Orographic ascent
(over hills such as Bukit Timah)

Wind has longer fetch

across the South China
Sea: so is wetter


Orographic rain



Is it getting wetter in Singapore?

1973-4 La
Nina year

El Nino Year

Shows a 3.4 mm increase each year = apparent 11% increase over 52

years. The probability-value of this yearly increase is 0.4. In other words,
there is 40% chance that this 3.4 mm increase per year is just a random
result. Note the wetter La Nina years and the drier El Nino years.

Rajagopalan, P. et al. (2008)

Infra Red Landsat 7 ETM + aquired 11.10.2007

Is it getting hotter in Singapore?

Thermal Image: Singapore Urban Heat Island

Compare this natural colour image with thermal image

Compare green vegetation vs grey urbanisation/industrialisation

4.5 o C difference at midnight!

Rajagopalan, P. et al. Microclimatic modeling of

the urban thermal environment of
Singapore to mitigate urban heat island.
Solar Energy 82 (2008) 727745

Infra Red Image: hot buildings, cool trees

Buildings have high heat capacity , vegetation has low heat capacity.

Does El Nino affect the weather in

Singapore? Yes!

Note: it got 1-2oC

warmer in the
South China Sea
and Singapore

5oC warmer
than average

El Nino Years

Walker Circulation



No fish

La Nina Years


Lots of fish


Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies

Hotter than av

Cooler than av

El Nino/La Nina Rainfall

El Nino: drier

La Nina: wetter

El Nino

La Nina


Not annual. 2 to 7 yr cycles

1997 was a v strong El Nino year: rainfall

in Singapore was halved, major haze problems
cos of forest and peat fires across the water.

Apparently, local temperatures decreased half a degree from 1948 to 1974,

rose 1.8 degrees between 1974 and 2008, fluctuating because of stronger El Nino and La Nina
years. What causes El Nino/La Nina years? Volcanic eruptions (SO2) cause global cooling.

1997 Super
El Nino Hotter, drier
El Nino
El Chichon


La Nina Cooler, wetter


Singapore: cloud formation

Cloud Classification
Clouds are classified according to cloud base:
(1) High clouds with bases above 6 km
(2) Medium clouds with bases between 2 km 6 km
(3) Low clouds with bases less <2 km

These are further catalogued according to form and

(a) Cumulus - puffy heaped clouds
(b) Stratus - layer clouds
(c) Cirrus - feathery clouds

Summary of cloud types by altitude


6 km


Cloud formation
The weather in Singapore is dominated by clouds and rain. Clouds
are formed by the condensation of water vapour into water
droplets or ice crystals in the atmosphere. The basic requirements
for the formation of a cloud are (a) moist air and (b) a lifting
These 4 lifting processes are
Mass Ascent by convection
Orographic ascent
(over hills such as
Bukit Temah)
Orographic rain

Early morning cirrus

Early morning cirrostratus




Altocumulus: mid-morning

Early afternoon cumulus

Cumulus thunder cloud growing as hot moist air rises

Late afternoon

Anvil cloud


Anvil Clouds: Dangerous!

Cumulonimbus are several km across at the base, anvil shaped

tops form where they meet the tropopause, ~13 km above the
ground. The anvil shape is caused by higher temperatures
above the tropopause that limit further vertical growth

Late afternoon storm in a

cumulonimbus thunder cloud

Finally a big bang and torrential rain!


Origin of sea breezes

SW Prevailing wind direction

By mid-afternoon
= thunder cloud
= torrential rain

Sea Breezes in Singapore: drifting cumulus cloud chains



Mt F
Prevailing wind
during SW

Cloud forming over eastern Johor

Sea breeze induced thunderstorms

Sumatra Squall 4th July 2005

Squalls and gust fronts

Heavy rain squall approaching behind nimbostratus clouds

Heavy rain, lightning, thunder

14th Jan 2010

Sumatra squalls: lines of thunderstorms which usually occur between

March and November. Develop at night over Sumatra and move E towards Singapore usually during the pre-dawn and early morning. Get a
sudden onset of strong gusty surface winds and heavy rain lasting from
1 to 2 hours as they move across the island. Max gusts of up to 93 km/h

Radar images of a Sumatra Squall

Sumatra Squall 27th Sept2012

36 km/hr

Roth pers comm (2013)

Sumatra Squall: 27th Sept 2012

Feb 8th 2013
36 km/hr

1st Nov 2012

Roth pers comm (2013)

Water spouts

Waterspouts are short-lived,

rotating vortex, 10 100 m
wide, originate over the sea,
dissipate over the land, last
<30 mins,

2nd Crossing


11th Nov 2011

Form under cumulonimbus,

over warm sea, 100 km/h


Bukit Timah


Observers head is at the centre of the

rainbow: you move, the rainbow moves

Double rainbow and supernumerary rainbows on the outside of the

primary arc. The shadow of the photographer's head on the bottom
marks the centre of the rainbow circle (the antisolar point).

Origin of Rainbows
Angle between
the sun and the
observer is 42o

White light separates into different colours on entering the

raindrop due to dispersion (refraction), causing (slower) red
light to be refracted less than (faster) blue light.

Greenler, Robert (1980). Rainbows, Halos, and Glories.

Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-19-521833-7.

Secondary rainbows are caused by double reflections

inside the rain drops with an angle of 52o



Full circle rainbow in 6 km high layer of ice crystals

Rare: a full-circle rainbow in Malaysia


Speed of sound
~ 350 m/sec
~1260 km/hr

Thunder & Lightning in Singapore

In Singapore, records on
lightning fatalities show
an average of 0.35 deaths
per million population
(year 2000-2003) as
compared to 0.6 in the
United States
Kills 1.75 people per year
Lightning kills fisherman, severely
injures another off Punggol
(Yahoo! Newsroom Mon, Nov 21,


Max during
when ITCZ is

Mostly between
2 and 4 pm after
the cumulonimbus clouds
build up

Formation of lightening
Colliding ice particles build up
+ve charge

-ve charge
induced in base

+ve charge induced

in ground

Charges build up


What causes thunder?


The air surrounding the electron stream is heated to as hot as 27,760 o

C i.e. 3 x times hotter than the surface of the sun.
As the superheated air cools it produces a resonating tube of partial
vacuum surrounding the lightning's path.
The nearby air rapidly expands and contracts: the column vibrates like a
drum and produces a tremendous crack.
As the vibrations gradually die out, the sound echoes and reverberates,
generating the rumbling called thunder. We can hear it from 15km away

Flash floods: storm water cascades

down escalators and walls at Kent
Ridge MRT Station 5/9/13
Photo: Ho Kinh Da

16th June 2010

1 Wednesday, 16 June 2010

2 Friday, 25 June 2010
3 Thursday, 1 July 2010
4 Saturday, 17 July 2010
5 Wednesday, 8 Sep 2010
6 Tuesday, 16 Nov 2010
7 Sunday, 30 January 2011
8 Monday, 31 January 2011
9 Wednesday, 4 May 2011
10 Wednesday, 1 June 2011
11 Sunday, 5 June 2011
12 Thursday, 9 June 2011
13 Friday, 21 October 2011
14 Thursday, 27 October 2011
15 Monday, 31 October 2011
16 Friday, 23 December 2011

Orchard Rd 16th
June, 2010

Flash floods

Bukit Timah 20th Nov 2009

Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards heat,
cloudiness, haziness, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, fog, frost, snow ete.......
Climate is the average and variations of weather over a long period of time
(~30 years)
The tropical climate of Singapore is controlled by the position of the InterTropical Convergence Zone that produces the alternating NE Monsoon (DecMarch), the SW Monsoon (June Sept) & the Inter-monsoons
Singapore is wetter in December, drier in July
The climate of Singapore is modified in unpredictable El Nino (warmer and
drier) and La Nina years (cooler and wetter)
The weather in Singapore is hot (31oC by day, 24oC by night) and often
thundery and wet in the afternoons
It is wetter and cooler in the centre of Singapore: ~4oC cooler than the heat
island in the CBD

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