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Published on Jan 03, 2014

Keep your umbrella at hand this month

LAST year turned out to be wetter than expected, with its rainfall nearly a third more than the previous year's amount.

On top of that, this month is tipped to be wetter than average.

According to freshly released statistics from Meteorological Service Singapore (MSS), the amount of rainfall recorded for last year was 2,748.4mm.

This is about 27 per cent higher than the previous year's amount, which was 2,159.9mm.

There was also more rain than usual last month - 348.2mm of rain was recorded - about 20 per cent more than the long-term average for December of 287.9mm.

While MSS expects January to be a wetter-than-average month, there may not be much change in rainfall conditions for the first half of the year.

An MSS spokesman said: "El Nino and La Nina conditions, which influence global and regional year-to-year rainfall variability, are expected to remain neutral for at least the first half of this year."

Assistant Professor Winston Chow, of the Department of Geography at National University of Singapore, noted that the predictions are likely to be accurate but "there are factors involved, such as wind conditions".

The National Environment Agency has said that very heavy storms in Singapore are likely to become more frequent and intense if global temperatures rise.

In addition, Singapore has seen more flash floods over the past few years, caused by heavy and intense bouts of rainfall.

A stretch of the Ayer Rajah Expressway was shut down for 40 minutes in September after flash floods overwhelmed the area's drainage system.

The following month, two ceiling boards at Pasir Ris Polyclinic collapsed after heavy rains.

More rain does not necessarily mean more flash floods though, said Dr Chow.

"The key factor in flash floods here is not how much rain falls throughout the day, it is where and how intense the rain is. When the drainage system can't cope with the high intensity of rainfall, that's when flash floods occur," he said.

Meanwhile, the authorities have stepped up to guard against flooding.

PUB has increased its drainage maintenance from once to thrice a week and plans to improve drainage at 36 more flood-prone locations.

These are on top of 176 ongoing drainage-improvement projects islandwide.

More MRT stations will also be retrofitted with barriers, as an added layer of protection.

limyihan@sph.com.sg