Indonesia weather agency predicts dry 2023, warns of forest fire risks

December 29, 2022 10:11 PM AEDT | By Reuters
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JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia will face its driest weather since 2019 next year, the country's weather agency forecast on Thursday, citing the weakening of the La Nina pattern.

The BMKG agency warned less rain could increase the risk of forest fires while the trend of the past three years also suggested a heightened risk of earthquakes and tsunamis.

"Starting May until April 2023, it will be getting dryer compared to the past three years, so the risk of forest fire rises," BMKG Director Dwikorita Karnawati told reporters.

She said the influence of La Nina, which refers to the cooling of ocean surface temperatures combined with winds and rains, will end around March 2023, causing lower rainfall.

Dwikorita said next year's dry season could be similar to that in 2019, when more than 1.65 million hectares (4.1 million acres) of forests burned. The fires cost the country at least $5.2 billion in damage and economic losses, according to the World Bank estimates.

Indonesia has been able to limit the losses since then, with just over 200,000 hectares of forests and land burnt between January and November of this year, the environment ministry data showed.

In order to prevent forest fires, Dwikorita said BMKG along with the enviroment ministry would conduct weather modification in April or May. The term usually refers to cloud seeding - shooting salt flares to trigger rainfall in dry areas.

While droughts in major palm oil planting areas in 2019 also hit output that year, BMKG made no prediction on the impact of 2023 weather on crops.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina Munthe; Editing by Gayatri Suroyo and Tomasz Janowski)


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