Wed | Jan 16, 2019

The heat is on & it’s going to get hotter

Published:Sunday | July 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
Children beating the heat at an open hydrant in downtown Kingston.

The Climate Branch of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica is reporting that five of its 13 stations across Jamaica recorded slight higher temperatures in June 2018 when compared to June 2017, with indications that the heat will get even worse in the coming days.

According to data supplied to The Sunday Gleaner last month, Appleton in St Elizabeth, Fair Prospect in Portland and Sangster in St James were the hottest places in the island.

Director of the Climate Studies Group at the University of the West Indies, Professor Michael Taylor, said the heat will only get worse.

"We have been saying that this is emerging over time, so it's not a new thing. This shouldn't take us by such surprise. This is what we have been saying all along. Having reached where we are now, it is going to continue. We now need to plan for it, and plan for even more volatility, and even hotter times," said Taylor.

He warned that in a bid to try and keep cool, Jamaicans could see themselves facing higher-than-usual electricity bill.

"Even if you don't have an air conditioner, it is a fan or multiple fans running through the night. It's your personal energy bill at nights and the Government or private sector energy bill during the day, but you can begin to see the ripple effect throughout society," said Taylor.




The Climate Branch has reported that during the period July to September, the forecast for Jamaica is for a high chance of warmer-than-normal temperatures with below-normal rainfall.

With the decline in rainfall, drought conditions could worsen. It has already issued a drought watch for the parish of Portland, and an alert for St Catherine and Clarendon.

Portland recorded a high temperature of 36.1 degrees Celsius last month, and two residents of the parish, Kascia Morgan who is a caterer, and Errol Hanna who operates a restaurant and a hotel, told The Sunday Gleaner that the heat has become unbearable.

"The heat outside is even worse than inside. Fan can't cool them yah hotness yah, I have a/c in one of the rooms and I just make up my mind to pay the light bill because even when it rains the heat is up," said Morgan.

"No rainfall, there is definitely a drought, you can see the changes, it is extremely hot. luckily, I am on a cliff so I get some sea breeze and I just try and keep myself cool and out of the sun during the days," said Hanna.

For Taylor, Jamaica will see these extremes in the weather for some time.

"We are going to be seeing more extremes, which is a volatility in water, one year it is very wet, the next year it is very dry. How do you ensure, if that is the regime, that we always have water? Are we really just to depend on rain, and then when the rain is gone we are in trouble, or do we need to find ways to harness the rain when we have it?" said Taylor.

He added that everyone has a role to play, and Jamaicans should ensure that they educate themselves about climate change.

"How do we in the Caribbean reduce greenhouse gases? We do it by paying attention to what are our energy sources. Renewable energy does not put out greenhouse gases. We do it by paying attention to what we do with land use, by looking at how we treat our waste and how we treat transportation. Those are the ways for us in the Caribbean region. If we do them we will be better off," said Taylor.

The National Water Commission (NWC) has already urged Jamaicans to conserve water and avoid wasting the commodity.

"We are finding a situation where there is a shortage of water, not because our systems have declined by any significant amount, but because the demand for NWC-supplied water has gone up significantly," said Charles Buchanan, corporate public relations manager at the NWC.

"Irrigation of fields, watering of lawns that are going dry, watering of animals are issues that we face. So both the legal and illegal demand usually create a situation in which the supply that we are providing becomes inadequate to meet the increased demand that usually come in the hot months," added Buchanan.