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Weather watch - climate expert warns country not to drop guard despite increased rainfall projections

Published:Saturday | January 9, 2016 | 1:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Taylor

Professor Michael Taylor, head of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies, has advised Jamaicans to be watchful and continue to conserve on water, despite reports that there will be increased rainfall levels this year.

Last year, Jamaicans experienced the effects of what has been described as the worst drought in five years. This was compounded by the strengthening of the El NiÒo weather phenomenon.

Jeffery Spooner, director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, indicated recently that the country has been receiving an appreciable amount of rainfall in recent times and future predictions signal improved conditions for this year.

Taylor, however, told The Gleaner that the country was still lagging in rainfall levels.

"I agree with him (Spooner) from a science perspective. However, I don't think Jamaicans should breathe a sigh of relief just yet because we are coming out of a deficit of rainfall last year. We depend a lot on groundwater, so even if we get the rains, which we got a fair amount of in December, that cannot offset the deficit unless we get a lot more between now and when the early rainfall period would have begun," he said.

NEED TO KEEP CONSERVING

"The point is [that] even though the dam is full in terms of groundwater, we still have to be very careful and we still have to conserve because we are in our dry season and it normally gets drier as it gets to March. That is when we normally see the forest fires on the hills, among other thing," he said.

"We don't have the amount of water that we would normally have to take us up to the early rainfall season, and in the long period, the whole issue of climate change has changed things a little bit. We are grateful for a good year if we get it, but this doesn't mean that we are not to prepare for the intense variability that has become the norm, because the next drought is likely not far away."

The climate expert, however, said he expected a better year in comparison to the past two years, should rainfall patterns remain the same.

"If the El NiÒo follows a similar pattern as it did in the past, it should go into decline. As it does so, we should get our early rainfall season - which is in May, June - a little earlier, and it should be heavier than normal. If the El NiÒo proceeds to a La NiÒa, which very often happens, it would mean that the late rainfall season would also likely be wetter than normal," Taylor told The Gleaner.

"It also means a good likelihood of hurricanes as well in the Caribbean region, so that is also something we should look out for."

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com