Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 23 Sep 2020 by:

In conversation with Fangyi Tan, PhD student, Sea Level Research team at the Earth Observatory of Singapore


1. Will melting ice sheets in such quantities pose a threat to Southeast Asia in the future? 

recent study found that the Earth has lost a staggering 28 trillion tonnes of ice between 1994 and 2017. The scientists commented in a related news article that the melting of glaciers and ice sheets could cause sea levels to rise by as much as a metre by the end of this century.

One metre may not sound like a lot...

Submitted on 05 Jun 2020 by:

Rising from the muddy depths of Singapore’s tropical swamps, the distinctive roots of the mangrove trees lie draped in a descending curve – with some parts of the roots buried in the wet soil, and other parts exposed to the humid air. 

Because home along the coast is consistently flooded with sea water brought in by the tides, mangrove trees need to have a part of their roots above water to help them breathe in a waterlogged environment that is often low in oxygen. It is this distinct vertical accretion in their growth that makes mangrove trees incredibly important in our fight against climate change.

The mangrove ecosystem is an intriguing, intricate one that allows its trees to adapt to high temperature and salinity levels. As a dense forest, the tangled...

Submitted on 21 May 2020 by:

Did you know that in the past six weeks six volcanoes in Indonesia erupted? These volcanoes are Semeru, Anak Krakatau, Merapi, Kerinci, Dukono, and Ibu. 

These recent eruptions are part of the usual volcanic bustle in Indonesia, impacting mostly the areas close to the volcanoes. While some of these activities were picked up all the way in Singapore, all were reported to aviation authorities.

Issuing Eruption Notifications

The Centre for Volcanology and Geological Hazards Mitigation (CVGHM), the monitoring agency for Indonesian volcanoes, issued a Volcano Observatory Notification for Aviation (VONA) on each eruption. The notification includes a summary of the volcanic activity, the...

Submitted on 14 May 2020 by:

Pandemics & Natural Hazards is a special series for the EOS Blog which looks at the compounding impacts of coinciding disasters. This third commentary is a contribution from EOS’ Centre for Geohazard Observations.

The daily coverage of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the media has given the public an insight into how the crisis has impacted the healthcare sector. We’ve seen footage of hospitals inundated with stricken patients, hospital staff begging for supplies, and the global race to find the medical holy grail of the moment – a COVID-19 vaccine.

But what about the other sectors of science that are not directly linked to the coronavirus? How are they coping with, even transforming in, this pandemic and the ensuing cross-border lockdowns?

Submitted on 18 Apr 2020 by:

A higher frequency of unusual weather conditions caused by global warming has melted the Greenland ice sheet by 600 billion tonnes, raising the world’s watermark by 1.5 milimetres – which is about 40 per cent of the total rise in sea level in 2019.

How will this affect Singapore? “Low-lying coastal cities and nations, like Singapore, should be very concerned about the extreme melting in Greenland and Antarctica,” said Professor Benjamin Horton, Chair of the Asian School of the Environment and a Principal Investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore. “If the ice...

Submitted on 02 Apr 2020 by:

Channel NewsAsia’s documentary titled “Carbon Conundrum” investigates how carbon emissions contribute to rising global temperatures, which lead to rising sea levels and extreme weather events. In the documentary aired on television (channel 106 on Starhub) on 31 March 2020, Assistant Professor Aron Meltzner and his team provided insights on how rising sea levels in the southeast Asian region could impact Singapore.

Using microatolls (circular colonies of coral) the team is able to track changes in the sea level. A study led by Asst. Prof Meltzner found that more than 6,000 years ago when there was no human-driven climate change, there were fluctuations of about 60 centimetres in sea levels in southeast Asia. He...

Submitted on 25 Nov 2019 by:

Singapore, unlike Japan, does not have any volcanoes. However, our little sunny island is in proximity to 127 active volcanoes in Indonesia and 53 in the Philippines. This means that like Japan, Singapore too could be significantly affected by different types of volcanic hazards, making research on volcanoes an important area of study for both countries. Here’s how Singapore was once affected.

Singapore was impacted by volcanic ash in 1991 after the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. And with that many volcanoes around the country, it is unlikely to be a one-off. As for Japan, it is in constant alert with its currently 110 active volcanoes. But, despite a very developed monitoring system, some eruptions – such as the 2014 Ontake eruption – still have...

Submitted on 05 Nov 2019 by:

Today is World Tsunami Awareness Day. It is a timely opportunity to create greater global awareness about tsunamis as a geological hazard. Before asking how we can stay safe (or safer) from tsunamis, we must first think about how we might improve on the resilience of our current and future infrastructure.

Let’s start by looking at what a tsunami is. A tsunami is a series of waves caused by an underwater earthquake, a volcanic eruption, a landslide, or meteorological processes (meteo-tsunamis). 

So why is SE Asia vulnerable to tsunami hazards? First of all, SE Asia lies in a complex tectonic setting that contains many fault systems and volcanoes. Coupled with a high population density and a tight network of infrastructure in coastal areas, one can imagine just how...

Submitted on 28 Sep 2019 by:

During the early evening of 28 September 2018, a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck along the coast of northwestern Sulawesi, Indonesia. This region hosts a famous strike-slip fault system called the Palu-Koro Fault.

Even though this is one of the fastest slipping faults in the world, it has not produced many large earthquakes during historical times. The Palu-Koro Fault was therefore thought to have a high probability of a large and destructive earthquake, and so the occurrence of the 2018 quake in Sulawesi wasn’t very surprising.

However, the landsliding that was triggered by the earthquake turned out to be unexpectedly destructive. Soon after the earthquake, witnesses described entire villages south of Palu City sinking into mud and disappearing, and it was...

Submitted on 17 Sep 2019 by:

Many may still remember the powerful eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. It was one of the largest eruptions in recent history, and sent volcanic ash even as far as Singapore, over 2,400 kilometres (km) away. 

But what many do not know is that the thin layer of volcanic ash that had settled across Singapore could have been more severe. Typhoon Yunya (also known as Typhoon Diding) had struck the Philippines almost at the same time as the Mount Pinatubo eruption.

Previously, scientists had not investigated how the typhoon had affected the amount of ash that fell on Singapore. However, preliminary modelling results carried out by scientists at the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) and Asian...