Earth Observatory Blog

Submitted on 21 Jul 2020 by:

Sea-level rise is a hot topic today in Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, in his 2019 National Day Rally Speech, spoke at length about how vulnerable our island state is to 21st-century projections. However, sea-level rise is not a recent phenomenon and neither are the extreme impacts it has had on Singapore’s landscape.

Here’s another interesting fact – Singapore was not always an island. During past ‘ice ages’ where most of the world’s water was locked at the Poles, the sea was found hundreds of kilometres further away from where it is today. The clues pointing to what happened to Singapore thousands of years ago as a result of sea-level changes can be found right under our feet.

A team from NTU’s Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS), the British...

Submitted on 15 Jun 2020 by:

The first results from Singapore’s first island-wide seismic survey unravel some important features of Singapore’s underground.

In March of last year, a team at the Earth Observatory of Singapore (EOS) recorded the ground movements of Singapore using 88 seismometers placed in locations such as schools, parks and weather stations.

We collected a vast quantity of fascinating data using distant earthquakes to image Singapore’s subsurface, and our first set of results were recently published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Seismologists use a technique called receiver functions to look at boundaries between different rocks...

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 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 19 Feb 2020 by:

In the early morning at about 5am on 12 February 2020, a bright object was seen in the sky. It blazed over Singapore and Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and its lights were caught on two dash-cam videos. The video that was filmed in Singapore was captured near the Nanyang Technological University campus, next to the Jalan Bahar flyover.

When an object enters the Earth’s atmosphere and burns up on entry, the way we name it depends on how big it is, as well as how bright. For example, an asteroid is a piece of rocky, iron, or icy debris, over...

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 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...

Submitted on 23 Aug 2019 by:

In the video below, Professor Benjamin Horton, Principal Investigator at the Earth Observatory of Singapore and Chair of the Asian School of the Environment, shares his thoughts on the topic of climate and sea-level rise in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s 2019 National Day Rally (NDR) speech that was aired on 18 August 2019.

Prof Horton felt that PM Lee had successfully communicated and emphasised the urgency for Singapore to take the right actions to deal with the effects of climate change. This is especially important for land-scarce Singapore, where we can’t simply move in-land as a means to adapt to sea levels that certainly will rise. As an important first step, he recommends that Singapore “invest in the science, [so that we] can have responsible and robust adaptation...

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