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Weather expert says drought outlook positive, warns against complacency

Published:Friday | April 1, 2016 | 4:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Experts at the Meteorological Service of Jamaica have declared that, as at Tuesday of this week, their records suggested that there would be significant improvement in drought conditions.

Adrian Shaw, acting head of the climate change branch at the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, told The Gleaner on Tuesday that there were only minor areas of concern, compared with previous years.

"We are having very few issues of concern as it relates to the drought. Based on our last assessment, only one parish was experiencing slight drought conditions, and it's Clarendon. We are seeing some dryness in areas such as Manchester, St Elizabeth, but with the enhanced rainfall predicted, we believe there will be significant improvement in dry conditions in comparison to the previous years. We are basically above what we expect at this time of the year in terms of rainfall," Shaw said.

He quickly noted, however, that the country was still feeling the effects of the El NiÒo weather phenomenon and as such would still encounter high temperatures up to July.

"We are still in an El NiÒo, but it is expected to weaken going through to July, so until that system weakens, we still expect to have some high temperatures until the rainy season kicks in. The rainy season and the cloud cover will reduce the maximum temperature," he said.

"We still expect above normal rainfall, so we are not seeing a deficit. Depending on how quickly the El NiÒo subsides, however, we will still be somewhat hot, especially if it goes beyond July as was predicted. It won't get to the point where records are broken, but we still expect hot temperatures," he said.

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Shaw cautioned the public to stay informed and be aware of the changes taking place especially with regards to climate change.

"When we look back at 1974 we only had 83 days where the mean temperature exceeded 308C. When we come forward to 2015 we had 286 days where the maximum temperature exceeded 308C, which means we are seeing hotter days, and as such, we have to be alert and never get complacent," he advised.