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Sunshine after rainy and chilly days brings a welcome relief

Published on: Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Sunshine and clear sky returned to Kota Kinabalu at last on Monday after almost two weeks of cold, cloudy and non-stop rains across Sabah.

Many residents in the capital city heaved a sigh of relief, particularly the miserable wet weather.

"At least I can start sunning my salted fish now," said a Bajau woman hawker at the Tanjung Aru wet market where the fish she put during the wet spell emitted a strong foul smell and drew criticisms from nearby shopkeepers.

The return of the sun suggests that even sunshine has become a scarce resource in tropical Sabah, most likely associated with global warming. The Earth's average surface temperature had risen 0.8 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution began in 1750 in Britain, caused by more than double the concentration of heat trapping greenhouse gases like C02, methane, nitrous oxides and surprisingly water vapour too.

A risen global surface temperature by almost 1 degree Celsius has accelerated evaporation, mostly from the seas and oceans and since water vapour is a greenhouse gas, it helps to enlarge the greenhouse effect that leads to the formation of more clouds, more precipitation and more rains.

Meanwhile, veteran trekker and adventure tour operator Tham Yau Kong, who had climbed Mt Kinabalu more than 500 times, said he personally witnessed snowfall at the summit area of Mt Kinabalu.

"It actually floated down like fire flies in the area of Sayat-Sayat which would be more than 12,000 feet above sea level," he recalled.

"It happened during one of those normal dawn climbs towards Low's Peak in 1995 during a bout of heavy mist and I saw snow flakes coming down like fire flies as I was shinning my torchlight to guide my walk," Tham said.

" It was about 3.30am and very cold sub-zero temperature when I saw this phenomenon for the first time. I knew it's not just water because it turned the rock face ground whitish although it wasn't thick," he said.

"But the weather condition has to be sub-zero for this to happen and that's why people say it's rare, I think," Tham said.

So, does it snow on Mt Kinabalu?

There is now mounting evidence that it does above and beyond a much more phenomenon - the formation of ice on water pools and pools in the summit area.

"Because I have climbed Mt Kinabalu hundreds of times, I know the difference between ice, frost and snow," Tham said.

"Ice and frost I have seen many times. Ice is thick, transparent and hard and you see it usually in the pools while frost is white and soft and can be rather thick but snow you actually see it descending to the ground and make whitish deposit on the rock face," he said.

A report submitted to Sabah Parks by their head ranger Martin Mogurin indicated that there were signs of snow at the summit area of the 4,101m-high mountain along the Crocker Range around 4am on Jan 7.

Martin said guides at the mountain submitted a report but were unable to back it up with pictures as it was dark. Sabah Parks officials are trying to verify the report.

Sabah Parks Director Paul Basintal said he was gathering information but he has his doubts about the snow.

Sabah meteorologists, however, are firm in dismissing any possibility of snow on Mount Kinabalu as it was too close to the Equator.

"Ice occurrence, yes, but snow? Not possible,' said Sabah Meteorological Department Director Abdul Malik Tussin.

He said Sabah has been experiencing cold weather due to the annual Siberian winds coupled with high amount of rain due to the usually wet northeast monsoon season and a low atmospheric pressure over Sabah.