The window of opportunity to safely remove the USS Guardian from the delicate Tubbataha Reef is closing fast, as weather conditions associated with the Amihan northeastern monsoon are expected to worsen over the next few days.
"The strong northeasterly wind and the associated big waves could affect any operation to rescue the US vessel. One thing to consider is there is another surge of the northeast monsoon this week, so expect stronger winds and heavier seas," GMA News' resident meteorologist Nathaniel "Mang Tani" Cruz said.
One method for extricating the ship being discussed by the US Navy is lifting the stuck 68-meter-long minesweeper from the reef and placing it on a larger ship.
"One-meter wave heights may not be that high considering the size of the vessel. (But) if they will do something, the window of opportunity is now as the northeast monsoon is still weak," Mang Tani explained.
The position of the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef, based on the January 18 incident report of the Tubbataha Protected Area Management Board. Also shown are the inner and outer boundaries of the Reef, as defined by Republic Act 10067.
Based on Weather Central data, the northeast monsoon or "Amihan" is the prevalent weather system affecting the area of Tubbataha reef, bringing cold winds from the direction of northeastern Luzon.
But Mang Tani warned that the monsoon is likely to gain in strength in two to three days, before the weekend.
Weather Central data shows that, as of Tuesday morning, wave heights in the area of Tubbataha Reef are expected to reach one meter in the next 24 hours. However, PAGASA forecaster Jori Lois told GMA News Online that the agency's data indicates that waves in the area may reach as high as two meters.
24-hour wave height forecast ending 8 a.m. Wednesday, January 23
On the other hand, no rains are expected within the area, so rescuers can expect generally clear skies for at least the next 24 hours.
Weather Central's rainfall forecast for the 24 hours ending 9 a.m. Wednesday shows generally clear weather in the Tubbataha area, with possible light rainshowers west of the reef on Tuesday afternoon. — KG/HS, GMA News