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No severe drought in 2015 – Met Office

Published:Saturday | February 14, 2015 | 2:00 AMRichard Mitchell
Jacqueline Spence

Farmers and the wider public should be a little less concerned about the possibility of severe drought in 2015 as the Meteorological Service of Jamaica expects "normal rainfall".

Speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum on Wednesday at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, office, Jacqueline Spence, acting climate branch head at the Meteorological Service sought to clarify the weather body's forecasts for 2015.

"While the dry season, which ends on March 31, has started with a deficit (in rainfall amounts), we should have normal rain in the wet season, which begins in April," Spence said.

She added that 2014 "was a bad year for the amount of rainfall, but we are not expecting 2015 to be as bad".

Norman Grant, president of the Jamaica Agricultural Society last month deemed 2014 the "worst period of drought experienced by Jamaica in close to a century". He estimated that 18,000 farmers were severely affected, amounting to approximately $1 billion in losses.

Residential customers across the island were also faced with daily water lock-offs as the National Water Commission struggled with low water levels at its storage and catchment facilities. The Corporate Area and Clarendon were the most severely affected areas.

The drought, which affected the summer months in 2014, was attributed to both the El NiÒo phenomenon (an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters) and broader climate change affecting the globe.

The main users of water in Jamaica are the agricultural sector, which accounts for 33 per cent of the total use of water and 21 per cent for residential purposes.