MANILA -- Drought-driving El Niño phenomenon may cause drier and warmer conditions nationwide this April.

Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said way-below normal rainfall in 26 provinces and below-normal rainfall in 57 provinces are possible next month.

It added 51 provinces or 61 percent of the country may be already drought-stricken by the end of April this year while 32 other provinces can be under the dry spell then.

"April is when we see severe impacts in terms of meteorological drought," said Analiza Solis, officer-in-charge of the PAGASA Climate Monitoring and Prediction Section.

Solis explained drought is a condition marked by either three consecutive months of way-below normal rainfall or five consecutive months of below-normal rainfall.

Dry spell, on the other, is either two consecutive months of way-below normal rainfall conditions or three consecutive months of below-normal rainfall, she continued.

At a recent forum in Quezon City, Solis reminded the public to brace for heat as PAGASA also forecast maximum temperature in April to range from 28.9 degree Celsius in mountainous Luzon to 38.9 degree Celsius in Mindanao's lowlands and 39.5 degree Celsius in Northern Luzon.

"We'll likely have a prolonged dry season," she said.

Early termination of the northeast monsoon or 'amihan' this year and possible delay in onset of the 2019 rainy season due to El Nino means the country is facing prolonged dryness, she said.

PAGASA expects such dryness to begin easing around May, however, forecasting near-normal rainfall then in most parts of Northern Luzon and Mindanao.

Near-normal rainfall is possible in most parts of the Visayas and Mindanao this June, PAGASA also said.

It also forecasted that most parts of the country experienced way-below to below-normal rainfall conditions from March 1 to 20 this year.

PAGASA also said temperature during such period was generally near-average, reaching slightly above-average level in Mindanao and slightly below-average level in some areas of Luzon.

On March 22, PAGASA announced termination of 'amihan' that brings cool winds to the country every year. End of 'amihan' signaled start of the dry season's peak — the period commonly called 'summer.'

Solis said last year, PAGASA announced termination of 'amihan' on April 10.

She said PAGASA will continue monitoring El Niño so this agency can provide the public updates and advisories on the matter.

Authorities have advised the people to avoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., drink more water, and wear light clothing to protect them from ailments due to excessive heat.

Headaches and dizziness are some heat-related ailments people can experience, she added. (PNA)