Region urged to brace for drought, recurrent dry spells
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology says chances of drought and recurrent dry spells during the peak of the dry season have increased as El Niño conditions are forecast to persist until the end of April.
El Niño refers to the large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.
Typical El Niño effects are likely to develop over North America during the winter season.
In its latest Caribbean Climate Outlook bulletin, the institute said that region-wide, extreme drought is unlikely.
“Wet days and wet spells are expected to become least frequent by March, while the chance for extreme wet spells tends to re-emerge in April, especially in the Greater Antilles, with some concern for flash flood potential arising then,” it said, noting that temperatures will be reasonably comfortable at least through February, and start rising thereafter.
The institute said that shorter drought term is evolving for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, as well as Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago and that shorter term drought might possibly develop in Antigua, southern and central Belize, Cayman Islands, Guyana, St. Kitts, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname.
But it noted that while a weak El Niño is expected to contribute to reduced rainfall up until April, long term drought is evolving in Antigua, Cayman, Grenada, Martinique and Tobago and that long term drought “might possibly develop in most other areas in the region”.
In its bulletin, the institute said that for the period May to July this year, which is regarded as the transition period between the dry and wet season, it is expected that there will be increasing temperatures.
“This implies a gradual build-up of heat discomfort from April onwards, with the occurrence of a few heat waves becoming likely, first in Belize and Trinidad and, from July onwards, elsewhere.
“Temperatures across the region are expected to be warmer than usual. In view of drought relief in affected areas, May to July rainfall may not provide immediate recovery everywhere. Nevertheless, the occurrence of extreme wet spells is possible in any area, with a corresponding rise in flash flood potential,” the agency said.