Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Caribbean islands urged to prepare for heatwaves

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2017 | 6:18 PM

KINGSTOWN, St Vincent (CMC):
Caribbean islands especially those in the south have been urged to prepare for heatwaves as they will be a feature of the 2017 rainy season.

That is the warning issued by Dr Simon Mason of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology in his presentation  – “Caribbean Heat outlooks: Research and product development” to the participants attending the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum which opened here on Wednesday.

Simon said in the past, not a lot of emphasis was placed on heatwaves but data gathered from islands over the years, has shown that this  is a growing challenge. “It’s time to investigate the problems of heatwaves and the best way to deal with it in this region,” said Simon who pointed out that in the United States of America heatwaves kills more people than tornadoes while in 2003 heatwaves killed 30,000 in France.

A heatwave is a prolonged period of excessively hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity, especially in oceanic climate countries.

While definitions vary, a heatwave  is measured relative to the usual weather in the area and relative to normal temperatures for the season.

Despite the region commencing the Hurricane season on Thursday, the CIMH is projecting that islands in the South of Caribbean will receive less rain and hotter days.

“The projection is for as much as one third of the total days for the rainy season will be warmer than normal so the advice is for people to be ready for the heat,” he said.

Simon said that with the elderly being particular vulnerable, steps must be taken in advance to assist them to cope with the effects.

“Most parts of the Caribbean are having growing elderly, the heatwaves can kill them, so understanding how to deal with this weather will be very critically in order to reduce the impact,” he said.

Besides impacting on the elderly, a heatwave could affect productivity.

However, he noted that the CIMH is not projecting drought conditions for the region because the overall outlook is for above average rain for the entire rainy or hurricane season which officially ends on November 30.