Bicycles, extreme weather, and drought

I and others have commented on the obligatory news photos and videos of somebody on a bike during extreme weather events such as hurricanes and blizzards. We even had a unicycle photobomb a story about a Utah ice storm this winter.

And now, we have a news photo of a man riding his unicycle through… a drought?

The provided caption says “A man cycles on a monowheel [sic] along a dried-up area at East Coast park in Singapore on March 13, 2014. Singapore is facing its longest ever dry spell of 27 days over the past two months, beating the previous record of 18 days set in 2008, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said February 28. Photo ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images.

Right now is the monsoon season for the Malay Peninsula, but a persistent high pressure ridge is blocking moisture from reaching the region (sound familiar, California?). The area that normally receives over a foot of rain by this time of the year has only seen an inch of rain fall. The lack of rain is helping with search efforts for the missing Malaysian Airlines 777 jetliner, but it’s also contributing to horrendous air quality problems throughout Malaysia and Indonesia.

This is the time of year when palm plantations use slash and burn agriculture to clear thousands of acres of virgin forest and peat soil for new groves of oil palms. Worldwide demand for “green” biofuels encourages this deforestation. Rain normally suppresses a lot of the resulting haze. Drought also has created conditions for some of these fires to burn out of control.

Sam Loh, who commutes by bike in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, has posted dramatic photos of the dangerous haze in his city. He rides while wearing an N95 filtration mask but says it’s nigh on impossible to breathe, and many of his peers have been forced to quit their outdoor activities because of the air pollution in his city.

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