Tue | Dec 10, 2019

Caribbean warned to brace for continued drier than normal pattern in 2020

Published:Friday | November 29, 2019 | 11:21 AM

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – A regional forecaster says the 2020 dry season is not expected to be as dry as this year but has warned that the effects of the drier-than-normal 2019 raining season will continue into the new year.

“The forecast for the dry season is, in a way, probably not as extreme as for the previous dry seasons, which is probably good news for agriculture, in that, in parts of the region, at least, we expect rainfall not to be not as dry as last year. So for those farmers who grow crops, particularly in the south and eastern Caribbean, it shouldn't’t be as bad as last year,” said Dr Cédric Van Meerbeeck, climatologist at the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology.

“But in terms of long term drought, which relates to water storage, the very large water reservoirs in the islands and in Belize, we still face challenges in the same places that are now experiencing drought,” Van Meerbeeck told the Caribbean Media Corporation on the sidelines of the Dry Season Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum.

He said the situation is quite different in the Guianas, where, particularly in the coastal areas, they have just started their secondary wet season and have had a reasonably wet to extremely wet couple month and year.

“So they have enough water and now going into the wet season, which is predicted to be wetter than usual even, that leads to concerns of flooding beyond the typical flooding that already occurs. So probably that is one of the major concerns for Guianas.”

Van Meerbeeck said that the situation with the lower than usual rainfall is not as widespread as with the drought of 2009 and 2010 and 2014 to 2016.

“But where there is drought right now, it can be very, very intense. Like in Belize, they have had the worst drought in many, many years, at least since the 80s. Barbados can end up in its driest years on record…and there are parts of Trinidad that are still suffering from the long-term drought.”

He said the situation in other areas have not been as extreme, adding that there has been quite some bad droughts in Hispaniola, both on the side of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

“But it is not generalised over the entire country so, hopefully, they might still have some water resources that they can pull from other parts of the country and the island. But for the small island states that have been badly affected by drought, the situation is probably a little more critical, as well as in Belize, in the northern parts, where they have really faced a drought — if I may say, something that we would refer to as a drought emergency.

“I am not going to say that is official because this is just a methodological approach that we have at CIMH. It is up to the country to decide what they call the situation but they have called for more aid for the farmers in the north of Belize because the situation really was in dire straits.”

Van Meerbeeck said that because water availability at large is a problem that might percolate into the tourism sector, interest there might want to keep themselves up to date on the latest drought situation, particularly during the high season, winter months for those markets that have a high season during the winter months.

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