Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

When rain doesn’t come

Posted by butalidnl on 10 September 2006

People here constantly complain about the bad weather, mostly on the fact that it always rains. However, things were quite different last July. July was the warmest July month this country every had, and it was one of the driest. The noontime temperature here was above 25 degrees Celsius for most of the month, and for half of this time, it was even above 30 degrees. This is extraordinary, because even in summer, it usually just stays in the 20-25 degrees Celsius range.

The houses here are made to withstand the cooler weather and rain, and thus they can be quite warm for people during a warm summer. Very few people have air-conditioned houses, and houses have quite large windows to help catch whatever warmth we can get from the sun. Warm weather is so uncommon that, even our electric fans are kept in boxes, and we assemble them for use when it gets warm (which is usually only a couple of weeks every year).

Warm, dry weather here has some particular “Dutch” effects. For one, people need to monitor the system of dikes. Inspectors keep an eye on the conditions of the dikes, because if they become too dry, cracks will develop in the dike which will undermine their strength. Thus, repairs need to be made before the rains return. In 2003, after the dry period, there was a heavy rain, and a dike broke, causing some damage to houses in a couple of streets. Also, grazing animals are not allowed to eat grass on dry dikes, because this also undermines the strength of the dike. The roots of the grass help strengthen the dike, and the hooves of the animals may also damage the dike surface.

Our electricity supply is also vulnerable when it gets too warm. Power plants need cooling water which is taken from the rivers. When the weather gets warm, and thus also the river water, it becomes difficult to cool the power plants sufficiently without endangering the fish and other river life with warm cooling water from the power plants. Thus, if it gets too warm, power plants may have to be turned off.

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