acquired April 29, 2023
acquired April 15, 2024

Water Levels Plunge in Philippine Reservoir



From January through April, sweltering heat in combination with little rainfall resulted in drought conditions throughout much of the Philippines. According to the Climate Hazards Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara, large parts of the country received only 45 to 75 percent of their expected rainfall for the first four months of 2024.

Pantabangan Lake, located 25 kilometers northeast of Muñoz in Central Luzon, felt the effects of the drought. The images above show the lake on April 29, 2023 (left) and April 15, 2024 (right). Low water levels in 2024 exposed more of the ruins of the town of Pantabangan, a 300-year-old settlement in the center of the lake.

The town was submerged in the 1970s, when the reservoir was built, but has rarely been accessible to people since. Parched conditions in the lake have dried up a path to the town (visible in this image). Marlon Paladin, an engineer with the National Irrigation Administration, told the French Press Agency (AFP) that parts of a church and tombstones of the centuries-old town began to resurface in March after several months of “almost no rain.”

The human-made reservoir irrigates more than 1,000 square kilometers (400 square miles) of surrounding rice fields in Central Luzon and has 100 megawatts of hydroelectric power capacity. By April 15, the water level had dropped 30 meters from its normal high level of 204 meters, and 10 meters below where it was on the same date in 2022.

Though the Philippines experienced elevated temperatures and little rain throughout much of the first quarter of 2024, the hottest temperatures punished the region in late April, toppling records for the highest daytime and nighttime temperatures. In Muñoz, 125 kilometers (78 miles) north of Manila, temperatures soared to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on April 27, breaking the record for the city. The Philippines closed all public schools on April 29 and 30, according to news reports, because of the dangerous heat.

The heatwave also extended across other parts of Southeast Asia. In late April, areas in northern Thailand and Myanmar saw temperatures around 40–44°C (104–111°F) for more than a week. On April 28, the temperature reached 48.2°C (118.8°F) in Myanmar’s central Magway region, breaking the record for the highest observed temperature in the country.

Typically, April and May are the hottest months in Southeast Asia, but unusually warm ocean temperatures associated with El Niño and long-term climate change have boosted air temperatures further.

In early March, GEOGLAM Crop Monitor, which provides science-driven alerts for countries that may be in danger of low crop yields, warned that high temperatures and below-average rainfall for April and May could pose challenges to rice cultivation in the Philippines. Their precipitation forecasts indicate that these dry conditions could persist through May and June.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Michala Garrison, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Story by Emily Cassidy.