Weather Permitting

June 26, 2015

I often write (and talk) about the weather. I especially do this as I try to disseminate information to those thinking of retiring here to Thailand and who may not have experienced all the seasons. I’ve described the cold season, and coping with the hot season, and I have written about the floods here during the rainy season. But now I am experiencing something I haven’t seen in all my time here. Severe drought.

The California drought has nothing over what the north of Thailand is currently experiencing. Here is a Bangkok Post pictorial essay about our current situation.  These pictures were taken in April of this year. It is now almost July and things are worse since the rains have not yet come.

We are luckier than most since when we were house hunting we came across this house with a nicely running stream next to it. Pikun loves the water and I love the mountains and this house has both, so we jumped at it. And unlike so much of the north, because we can pump water from our stream to water the garden, things are still green around us. But we aren’t sure how much longer that will last. The stream is now at the lowest level we have ever seen it.


The Mae Hia Stream

Normally by this time all the water plants that sprung up during the dry season have been washed away by the stream’s flow and the water would cover the whole stream bed to a couple of feet. Right now there are only a few more inches left before it dries out completely.

And just in case you are thinking that I am only concerned about my garden, there is a little more at stake. It’s the whole country’s economic well being that is tittering on the brink. Here is an article that appeared in today’s Nation newspaper, Drought Crisis Could Knock Down Growth. Looks like the whole of Thailand’s economy is waiting for the rains to come.

I just came off the phone with a rice farmer friend. I asked him what his take on the current situation was. He told me that it is difficult to know when a real drought is upon us since every year during the dry hot season there is a 5 or 6 month period when no rain falls at all. The way to check is by looking at the reservoirs and see where the water levels are at the same time each year. For the past 3 or 4 years that level has gone down until now when they are dangerously low. So the drought has been an ongoing thing for a number of years now.

He also says that water shortages can be a hit or miss thing. This year he had all the water he needed, but a farmer he knows just a few kilometers away got no water at all. No water, no rice. It all depends on how the water is doled out. Some farmers will be okay. Others will be up-a-dry-creek.

He also said that since the population centers are the first priority on who gets the water the farmers are quite worried that there may just not be enough water to go around, especially with the huge increase in population around the northern cities. Population growth has gone uncontrolled; planning difficult to see.

For the past two or three years I have noticed that the rainy season has been very different from what I traditionally remembered. This is how the rainy season is supposed to look.

Every year about mid April, Songkran time, there are big thunder storms. Then there is no rain for a few more months. By june the clouds form daily and there are some showers. A few weeks later the rainy season really gets underway and big puffy-cumulous clouds form every afternoon, and by 4 or 5 o’clock the skies open up (just in time for rush hour, btw). Huge downpours occur every evening and they last for a short while up to a few hours. By night the skies clear up and we wait until the next evening when it happens all over again.

Except that for the last few years, that is not what has happened. Last year the rains came maybe once every 3 or 4 days. And I only recall one or two heavy downpours whereas in a typical rainy season they occur every day.

Why is this happening? I don’t know. Maybe it is normal and just happens on a time scale so long that no one can remember it. Maybe it’s the global climate change that scientist all agree is happening although the scientifically-challenged continue to refute even when reality stares them in the face. Whatever the cause, a change has happened. I’ll be taking shorter showers and hoping someone in the government is doing something to mitigate the impact that less water will have on all of us.


I just read this morning that North Korea has a very serious drought condition and they are predicting famine. As if the North Koreans didn’t have enough problems. Let’s hope for the best for them.

Nothing so bad here, yet. As I am writing this it has begun to drizzle. We’ll need lots more than a few sprinkles to get things back to normal but at least it is a start.

6 Responses to “Weather Permitting”

  1. Wombat Joey said

    Thank you for the climate article. Yesterday i was in the local market in Cairns, Australia, and our fruit lady said she just got back from a visit to her home in Thailand. Among other things, she mentioned the surprising lack of rain at a time when it’s normally very wet. You said, “Maybe it’s the global climate change that scientist all agree is happening although the scientifically-challenged continue to refute even when reality stares them in the face.” It’s not that “scientifically challenged” people refute climate change out of hand. What it is is questioning that this change is entirely man-made, when similar cycles both up and down have occurred many times in the history of our planet and of other planets as well. Also, the idea that a “carbon tax” and a “carbon trading scheme” will help fix this is pure nonsense. The only thing that will do is further enrich the few at the expense of the many, in Thailand and everywhere else.

    • Hi Wombat Joey,

      As I said I don’t know what is causing the current problems. But, 97% of scientists believe that climate change is real, and that human beings are definitely having an impact on this change.

      Nothing is “entirely man-made” of course. But let’s say we are in one of those cycles when the world warms up a bit; and at the same time we pump lots of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the same time. The definition of synergy is: “the interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.”

      Could that be what’s going on?

  2. Young said

    When I was living in California 20 years ago, I vividly remember that there was no rain in a whole year. I was wondering at that time, where all the water that we were consuming coming from. I told my husband that pretty soon all those southern states, Nevada, Arizona, and Texas, California…so on will have serious water shortages. This prediction was vindicated amazingly almost 20 years later. There is no substitute for water. It is very frightening. Now I am living in Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh where rains almost every day, this is unusual too. We all should conserve and reuse the water till scientists come up with something.

  3. Bruce M said

    Hello Hugh from Vancouver, where we are on lawn watering and car-washing restrictions. Quite First World, our little drought problem here. But I heard from my husband that the Thai government had asked farmers to stop growing rice because it requires so much water. True? I also heard that the rains finally arrived. True? Regards, Bruce/Vancouver

    • Bruce, It is raining as I write this. Better, but there is still not near enough. Lots of fields here have gone unplanted. Others are using stored water from ponds and wells. Maybe if the rains continue there will be enough water for a rice crop. No restrictions here yet about personal water use. It is cloudy every day now but often no rain at all. No one here has ever seen anything like this.

  4. Bruce MacDonald said

    Thank you Hugh. Very concerning for the people in the area.

    I just today read an article in the Bangkok Post about Bangkok sinking. I think your synergy is in operation there: too heavy buildings; too much use of ground water contributing to sinking; plus climate change related sea rise bringing on the frightening prospect of the city being under water in as little as 15 years.

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