Mon | Dec 10, 2018

Scorching heat will affect critical sectors - specialist

Published:Wednesday | July 5, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Health, livestock and productivity are some areas Professor Michael Taylor envisions will be severely affected as Jamaica braces for hotter temperatures, a phenomenon he predicts will last until the end of the century.

In an interview with The Gleaner, the scientist noted that Jamaicans have to adapt to these changes as the trend is now a "new normal".

"Climate has multiple signals, so if we looking on temperatures, the dominant signal is what is called a linear trend, which is a straight line. If we look at the Caribbean and for Jamaica, the records that we have from the 1950s going forward is pretty much a straight line going upwards," he said.

"In the future, we know it's going up based on emissions we have put out in the past, so it's pretty much clear that the linear trend will continue to increase. Where it's not clear is by how much. But what we are clear on, based on prediction, is that at least until the end of the century, temperatures will continue increasing."

Taylor also made reference to research that was released yesterday by the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), which gave a heat outlook for July and December.

In summary, the research indicated that "a wet period is expected for The Bahamas, Belize, Greater Antilles, western Guianas and Leeward Islands, including concern for flash flooding due to extreme wet spells. Heat will become intense, including recurrent heatwaves in August and September for the most part, posing a health risk for the vulnerable. Finally, environmental conditions should be favourable for mosquito breeding and moisture related pests."

The research continued, "The hottest part of the year (August to September) will be warmer than usual."




Possible implications that were listed include elevated heat stress in the vulnerable population, elevated heat stress in small livestock, and increased cooling need.

Taylor noted that the findings should be taken seriously by Jamaicans.

"The science is pretty clear that we are moving into a new normal of hot. When we talk about a new normal, it can manifest itself in a number of ways, so the mean temperatures are going up, but what does it mean for something like the number of hot days or consecutive hot nights or consecutive hot and dry days? That's when you feel it," Taylor explained.

"You come home in the evenings, the house is so hot, so even if you intended to do work, productivity is affected. Clearly energy is affected and food production."