June Updated Forecast for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

20 06 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

My June updated forecast for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season is out, and it continues to call for a very busy and active season with the potential of being super hyperactive. As of June 20, the forecast is for 20 named storms, 10 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.

Recall that the accumulated cyclone energy index (ACE) is the universally accepted metric used to classify the overall activity of a hurricane season. The ACE forecast for this year is 186, 34 above the threshold for an active season, based on 1991-2020 data.

A super hyperactive season like 2017 also remains possible. There is a 37 percent chance of the ACE exceeding 223. Further, there is a 43 percent chance of more than 19 named storms; 24 percent chance of more than 11 hurricanes and also a 22 percent chance of more than 6 major hurricanes.

If the forecast pans out, this season would be the tenth most active, on record, in terms of ACE, dating back to 1851. It would also tie with 1933 for the fourth highest number of named storms.  

Recall, a typical season, based on the new standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. Major hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of at least 178 km/h or 111 miles per hour (e.g., Category 3 or higher), according to the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially goes until November 30.

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Updated Prediction: Below Normal Rainfall Most Likely for Antigua for 2022

31 05 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

The prediction for rainfall remains discouraging. My latest forecast continues to call for most likely below normal rainfall for Antigua. The most likely total for the year is 1080 (42.5 in), down 25 mm (1 in) from the previous forecast. There is also a 70 percent or high confidence of the rainfall total falling in the range of 590 to 1695 mm (23.2 to 66.7 in).

The main reason for the below normal rainfall forecast is the current trend of cooler than average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the tropical North Atlantic (TNA), which should last through summer (June-August). Cooler than normal TNA SSTs favour suppressed rainfall conditions while the opposite enhances rainfall.  

The year started out with a severe drought brought forward. This drought started in the winter of 2020/2021 and continues through the present. This May has been wetter than the last one; notwithstanding, it will end with well below normal rainfall. Year-to-date is drier than normal. Further, since the deluge of November 2020, the start of the current drought, there has been 943.1 mm (37.13 in) of rainfall, for December 2020 to May 2022. This total is so far below normal that it is the second driest such period on record.

The dry season, January to June, is on track to be drier than usual. Summer, June to August, is also likely to be drier than normal. Further, the first three quarters of this year (January to September) is likely to see deficit rainfall with a most likely total of 645 mm (25.4 in) compared to the usual amount of  759 (29.9 in). There is also a 29 percent chance of January to September having top 10 dryness.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 40-50% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda for June to August. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the rest of the Caribbean.

A typical year, based on the new standard climate period 1991-2020, averages 1156.7 mm (45.54 in). The dry season averages 410 mm (16.14 in) and the wet season, July to December, averages 746.8 mm (29.40 in). The fall/autumn, September-November, accounts for 58 percent of the wet season total and 38 percent of the year’s total.

This forecast will be updated monthly around the 25th of each month until August. The next update will be issued around June 25.

Regardless of the forecast, we all need to conserve water and be as efficient with its use as much as possible. Reducing our personal water footprint will literally redound to our individual and collective socio-economic benefit. Minimising your water footprint is also good for the climate, good for our environment and good for rainfall.

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May Updated Forecast for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

17 05 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

My May updated forecast for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season is out, and it continues to call for a very busy and active season with the potential of being super hyperactive. As of May 18, the forecast is for 20 named storms (down 1), 9 hurricanes (unchanged) and 4 major hurricanes (unchanged).

Recall that the accumulated cyclone energy index (ACE) is the universally accepted metric used to classify the overall activity of a hurricane season. The ACE forecast for this year is 175, 23 above the threshold for an active season, based on 1991-2020 data.

A super hyperactive season like 2017 also remains possible. There is a 33 percent chance of the ACE exceeding 223. Further, there is a 42 percent chance of more than 19 named storms; 27 percent chance of more than 11 hurricanes and also a 27 percent chance of more than 6 major hurricanes.

If the forecast pans out, this season would be the third most active since 2017, in terms of ACE, and the 16th most active on record dating back to 1851. It would also tie with 1933 for the fourth highest number of named storms.  

The survey of other forecasts reveals a consensus for an above normal season. The consensus is for an ACE of 159, 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes, a busy and active season. This is generally consistent with my forecast. However, regardless of the forecast, you should always be well prepared each season, as it only takes one hurricane to ruin your year and or life.

The ACE forecast from several models, including that of 268Weather’s for April. The overall average is 159

The main reason for the above normal forecasts is the current La Niña, which is forecast to last through the hurricane season, causing favourable conditions for higher than usual tropical cyclone formation.  

Recall, a typical season, based on the new standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. Major hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of at least 178 km/h or 111 miles per hour (e.g., Category 3 or higher), according to the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

This forecast will be updated monthly around the 14th of each month until August. The first update will be issued around June 14.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and concludes on November 30; nevertheless, in the last six years, there have been preseason tropical cyclones–be prepared!

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What does an Active Hurricane Season Mean for Antigua?

9 05 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

The early forecast is for the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season to be an active one or above normal. What could this mean for you? Will Antigua be affected by a named storm (tropical storm or hurricane)?

What is an active or above normal hurricane season? This is a season with the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index in the top third of the 1991-2020 dataset, or an ACE of 152 or higher. The ACE is a metric that takes into consideration not only the number of named tropical cyclones (subtropical storms, tropical storms or hurricanes) but also their strength and duration.

Given the forecast for an active hurricane season, there is a 43 percent chance/probability of a named storm passing within 105 nautical miles of Antigua or affecting (hitting of brushing) us. This translates into a named storm return period of 2 to 3 active years or a named storm affecting us every 2 to 3 active years, on average. Our last named storm during an active year was Tropical Storm Laura of 2020. This means statistically we are not due one this year, if the season turns out to be active, as forecast.

With an active season forecast, a named storm has a 28 percent probability of affecting us as a hurricane and an 18 percent probability of affecting us as a major hurricane (Category 3 or higher). On average, we get a hurricane passing within 105 nautical miles of Antigua every 3 to 4 active seasons and a major hurricane every 5 to 6 active seasons.

Our last hurricane during an active season, which was also a major hurricane, was Maria of 2017. It did not cause us hurricane winds, but it passed within 105 nautical miles to our southwest, affecting us with storm-force winds. Given we average a hurricane every 3 to 4 active years, and there has been only one active season since then, 2020; statistically, this means we are NOT due for a hurricane this year. Additionally, we are also NOT due a major hurricane this year.

What if a season is not active? For a near normal season, the chance of us being affected by a named storm drops to 23 percent and the chance of that named storm being a hurricane plummets to just 3 percent. If by some miracle, the season is below normal, the chance of a named storm passing within 105 nautical miles from Antigua is 21 percent with a 6 percent chance of it being a hurricane. For non-active seasons, near or below normal, we stand a zero percent chance of getting a major hurricane.

A tropical storm or hurricane not being due does not guarantee one will not occur. The fact that the probability of a named storm in any given year is not zero means that one could occur in any year, despite not being statistically due. An event with a given return period is said to be not due when the average return period has not yet elapsed. Because this is an average return period, the event can happen at any time before or after the return period.

Annually, based on the standard climate period of 1991 to 2020, taking all seasons into consideration, there is a 66 percent chance of a named storm affecting Antigua. Further, there is a 35 percent chance of the named storm being a hurricane and an 18 percent chance of it being a major hurricane.

Tracks of all 31 named storms to have passed within 105 nautical miles of Antigua, 1991 to 2020

Active hurricane seasons are generally not good for us, which may not come as a surprise to you. What may be new here are the relatively high chance of us being affected during such a season, which the forecast is calling for this year.

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Wet Weekend for the Northeast Caribbean

28 04 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

A trough system is poised to cause wet weather across the northeast Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda. Several of the more reliable weather models are forecasting the potential (10 percent chance) for rainfall totals exceeding 25 mm (over 1 in) to fall over the period Friday to Sunday of this weekend.

The potential total for over 25 mm in 72 hours is not in and of itself a high figure. However, relative to April and the fact that we are in a severe drought makes this worth “writing home about”.

Whereas all models consulted are forecasting rainfall for the weekend, the forecast totals differ, as can be expected. At the lower end of the potential rainfall scale some are projecting a 10 percent chance of over 25 mm (over an inch), while others are suggesting potentially higher totals, a 10 percent chance of over 75 mm (3 in) for the weekend.

GFS 24hr precipitation total exceedance forecast probabilities showing all areas with at least a 10 percent chance of getting over 50 mm (2 in) of rainfall from 2 am Saturday, 30 April to 2 am Sunday, 1 May 2022

The wet weather is expected from Dominica to Hispaniola. The highest totals are likely across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Saturday/Sunday. Most of the rainfall for Antigua and the rest of the Leeward Islands is likely Friday/Saturday and for Hispaniola Sunday/Monday.

If the models prove right, and the upper end of the rainfall potential materialises, some places across the northeast Caribbean could see the average total for April falling in one weekend, if not one day. The possible rainfall total for the area is 25 to 100 mm (1 to 4 in). With this kind of rainfall possible, depending on the intensity and duration, flash flooding and associated impacts are of concern.

Deterministic rainfall accumulation forecast by the GFS model from Thursday, 28 April to Sunday, 1 May 2022

The rainfall of this weekend could, at least, put a dent or further dent in the droughts across the area, particularly the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It will certainly have a big impact on domestic catchments, temporarily easing the stress and demand on water resources authorities.

There is no doubt that these showers will be welcome by all; however, they could prove disruptive to weekend plans leading up to Labour Day Monday celebrations. Good news though: The weather should just about be back to normal by Monday.

The system has already caused wet weather across the southern Caribbean with some areas receiving over 75 mm (3 in). The trough also prompted flash flood warnings for some islands.

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Early Prediction: Below Normal Rainfall Most Likely for Antigua

21 04 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

The year will most likely be another drier than usual one for Antigua. My early forecast calls for the rainfall total for 2022 to most likely be 1105 mm (43.50 in) with a 70 percent or high confidence of it being in the range of 811 to 1463 mm (31.93 to 57.60 in).

The main reason for the most likely below normal rainfall forecast is the current cooler than normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the tropical North Atlantic (TNA), which should last, at least, into the second half of the year. Cooler than normal TNA SSTs favour suppressed rainfall conditions while the opposite enhances rainfall.  

The year started out with a severe drought brought forward. This drought started in the winter of 2020/2021 and continues through the present. January 2022 was wetter than January 2021, but it was still only 72 percent of the normal total. The last two months, February and March, have been wetter than normal resulting in the intensity of the meteorological drought easing to slight. This easing is likely to be a brief respite, given the forecast.  

The dry season, January to June, will likely be below normal with a 60 percent chance. The forecast is for 298 mm (11.73 in) with high confidence of it ranging between 182 to 459 mm (7.17 to 18.07 in). This dry season could also be one of the top 10 driest. There is a 33 percent chance of this happening with the possibility of the total falling below 254 mm (10 in). Currently, the total stands at less than 203 mm (8 in) with April running well below normal at less than 25.4 mm (1.0 in) and the forecast indicating a better than 70 percent chance of May-June being drier than normal.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 70-80% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda for May to July. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the rest of the Eastern Caribbean.

A typical year, based on the new standard climate period 1991-2020, averages 1156.7 mm (45.54 in). The dry season averages 410 mm (16.14 in) and the wet season, July to December, averages 746.8 mm (29.40 in). The fall/autumn, September-November, accounts for 58 percent of the wet season total and 38 percent of the year’s total.

Rainfall-wise, last year–2021, will be most remembered for being the second driest on record with some parts of the country having record-breaking dry weather. There were likely significant socio-economic impacts but unfortunately, this has not been quantified.

This forecast will be updated monthly around the 21st of each month until August. The first update will be issued around May 21.

Regardless of the forecast, we all need to conserve water and be as efficient with its use as much as possible. Reducing our personal water footprint will literally redound to our individual and collective socio-economic benefit. Minimising your water footprint is also good for the climate and good for our environment.

Please share this blog, if you found it useful, and follow me for more on the evolving drought and for all things weather and climate – TwitterFacebook and Instagram.





Early Prediction: Very Busy 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast

14 04 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

This hurricane season will likely be another very busy one, exhausting the primary list of named storms, once again. My early forecast for the 2022 Season is out, and it calls for 21 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.

In addition to being a very busy season, it is most likely to be an active season. Recall that the accumulated cyclone energy index (ACE) is the universally accepted metric used to classify the overall activity of a hurricane season. The ACE forecast for this year is 182, 30 above the threshold for an active season, based on 1991-2020 data.

A super hyperactive season is also possible. There is a 36 percent chance of the ACE exceeding 223. Further, there is a 49 percent chance of more than 19 named storms; 30 percent chance of more than 11 hurricanes and 29 percent chance of more than 6 major hurricanes.

If the forecast pans out, this season would be the third most active since 2017, in terms of ACE, and the tied with 1998 for the 10th most active on record dating back to 1851. It would also tie 2021 for the third highest number of named storms.  

According to other forecasts surveyed, the consensus is for an ACE of 161, 19 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes, a busy and active season. This is generally consistent with my forecast but with a notable 21 less ACE. However, regardless of the forecast, you should always be well prepared each season, as it only takes one hurricane to ruin your year and or life.

The main reason for the above normal forecasts is the current La Niña, which should last into the first half of the hurricane season and maintain favourable conditions for tropical cyclone formation even beyond August, into the peak of the hurricane season.

A typical season, based on the new standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. Major hurricanes have sustained wind speeds of at least 178 km/h or 111 miles per hour (e.g., Category 3 or higher), according to the Saffir Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The last Atlantic hurricane season–2021, will be most remembered for being a very busy season with 21 named storms. Collectively, the season caused 103 deaths and over US$80 billion in damage. Major Hurricane Ida alone caused 55 deaths and over US$75 billion in damage.

This forecast will be updated monthly around the 14th of each month until August. The first update will be issued around May 14.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and concludes on November 30; nevertheless, in the last six years, there have been preseason tropical cyclones–be prepared!

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Drier than Usual January for Antigua

23 02 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

January 2022 was another drier than usual month for Antigua; the fourth in a row and the 10th since January 2021. The month registered just  48.3 mm (1.90 in), making it the fifth January of the last eight with below normal rainfall.

January usually clocks 67.3 mm (2.65 in) of rainfall annually (1991-2020); this means the month fell close to 28 percent below its usual total. This is an improvement over January 2021, when the deficit was close to 60 percent. Notwithstanding, it is another year with a bad start.

January’s rainfall anomaly (deviation from normal) in percentage (blue line) along with the long-term trend (grey broken line). The background is that of Potworks Dam, 3 February, 2022

The rainfall for January continues to trend negatively (downward); however, this trend is statistically insignificant. The trend is at a rate of just 0.16 mm (0.0064 in) per year or 16 mm (0.64 in) per hundred years. This also represents an insignificant rate of 0.24 percent per year or 24 percent in 100 years. No evidence of a changing climate with respect to rainfall in January.

In aggregate, the three-month period ending January is among the driest on record going back to 1928. The total of 141 mm (5.55 in) is the third lowest behind November-January of 1967/68 and 1947/48. The last four, five, six and seven-month periods ending January had record-breaking low rainfall. Further, the last year (February to January) ranks second driest, on record, with 621.5 mm (24.47 in). The record is 588 mm (23.15 in), February 2015-January 2016.

Clearly, we remain in the grips of a severe meteorological drought, which is also defined as exceptional by some other metrics. Also evident are agriculturalhydrologicalecological and socio-economic droughts, at varying intensities. Potworks Reservoir remains 100 percent empty, converted into a pasture for grazing animals. All other surface catchments are in a similar state or below extraction levels.

Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water resource manager, has just commissioned a new reverse osmosis plant to obtain more potable water from the sea. This should bring the daily total from this source to over 7 million and it should help to ease the water woes. However, the drought continues to be a very serious matter for many, who are forced to go days without potable water, as demand continues to outstrip production by hundreds of thousands of gallons.

The drier than usual start to the year was not confined to Antigua. Much of the Caribbean Basin experienced below normal rainfall with some islands or part thereof getting less than 25 percent of their usual total–75 percent rainfall deficit or more.

CMORPH 1-Month Percent of Normal Rainfall for January 2022

Drought conditions have worsened across a number of the other islands, including the rest of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, most of the Windward Islands and Barbados. The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) has recommended drought watches or warnings for most islands of the Caribbean.

It is unclear as to when there will be any notable respite from the drought. The latest set of models surveyed suggests an equal chance of below, near or above normal rainfall for March to May for Antigua and Barbuda and much of the rest of the Caribbean.

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The Northern Caribbean Set to Experience its Worst Swell Event for the Season

5 02 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

Strong winds from a low-pressure system, some distance away, are pushing relatively large swells toward the northern Caribbean and the Bahamas, including Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Leeward Islands. Swells have started to arrive and will reach warning levels tonight through much of Saturday night.

NOAA Station 41044 – NE ST MARTIN – 330 NM NE St Martin Is showing relatively tall swells heading toward the northern Caribbean

This will be no Swellmageddon but it will be the worst swell event of the swell season: December to April. This event will see swell waves coming from the north-northeast at 2 to 3 metres (7 to 10 ft). Occasionally, they will reach 4 metres (near 13 ft). Though it will be no Swellmageddon, it will not be your garden variety swell event, as surf warnings are required.

Video by Windy.com showing swell heights
The possibility of significant wave heights (SWH) equaling or exceeding 3 metres or 10 feet. This is likely to expected in the northern coastal waters, according to the ECMWF IFS Model.

These swells will be virtually harmless in open waters, but they will be a very different “kettle of fish” when they run up on reefs and exposed northern and eastern coastlines which are relatively shallow and gentle to moderately sloping. In these environs, surfs (breaking swells) could be as much as twice the height of swells, as they crash onto shorelines.

Surfs at Fort James during a past swell/surf event

Such high swells and surfs will produce a high threat to life and property in the surf zone. There is the potential for extensive impacts. High surfs will result in beach closures, as swimming conditions will be extremely dangerous for beachgoers. Not entering the waters of affected areas would be a great safety idea and best advice.

The event will likely cause major beach erosion; possibly flooding of low-lying coastal roads; disruptions to marine recreation and businesses; financial losses and damage to coral reefs.

Although relatively small, this swell episode may also cause disruptions to potable water from desalination, as turbulent seas, will increase the turbidity of the water above tolerable levels for the desalting plants.

A high surf warning has been issued by the Met Office for Antigua and much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean. Other offices, as far west as the Bahamas, are expected to issue requisite marine alerts, if they have not done so already.

Precautionary actions: No one should enter the waters of the main warning areas: northern and eastern coastlines. All are also urged to stay away from rocky and or coastal structures along affected coastlines.

The impact on shorelines will not be the same everywhere. Depending on the depth, size, shape and the natural shelter of the coastal waters, the impact will be different. Shallow north-facing shorelines are expected to see the highest swells and surfs.

Seas are to return to safe levels by Monday morning.

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Relatively Very Wet Weekend Possible for Parts of the Northeast Caribbean

4 02 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

A cold front looks poised to cause a relatively very wet weekend across much of the northeast Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda. Several reliable models are forecasting possible rainfall totals of 25 to 76 mm (1 to 2 in) to fall over the period Friday to Sunday.

Proxy visible satellite image

The potential total of 76 mm in 48 to 72 hours is not in and of itself a high figure. However, relative to February, this is a lot of water. The average rainfall for the second month of the year is 50.0 mm (1.97 in). This means we could welcome more than the average for the month, in a few days.

After this weekend, this February could be the wettest since 2004, ranking among the top 10, on record. Only seven Februarys, on record dating back to 1928, had more than 76 mm (3 in) of rainfall.

GFS model indicating 30-40% chance of more than 25 mm in 24 hours ending 8 am (12 UTC) Saturday, 5 Feb, 2022

If the models prove right, this weekend would easily be the wettest in, at least, 16 weeks and the wettest month in four months. Some parts of the country could see a record wet first week of February. The record for February 1-7, at the Airport, is 54.8 mm (2.16 in), which occurred in 2002. We could also see the 24-hour rainfall accumulation, across some parts of the island, exceed 25.4 mm or one inch, for the first time since 2004 and the fourth time on record.

Notwithstanding the potential for a relatively very wet weekend, this will have minimal impact on the droughts. It will likely have a big impact on domestic catchments but virtually no impact on the island’s catchments.

There is no doubt that these showers would be welcome by all; however, they could prove very disruptive to the ongoing ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup, which climaxes this weekend, with the final and third-place position. It will likely also be disruptive to other outdoor events.

The system has already caused wet weather across Hispaniola and Puerto Rico with isolated totals of up to 203 mm (8 in). If this amount were to reach us, it would cause absolutely wet conditions and place a dent in the drought, but it is very unlikely that we will get this lucky.

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Near Record-Breaking Dry Year, Drought Reigns

18 01 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

It was a near-record-breaking dry year (2021) for Antigua. The year produced a measly island-average rainfall of 600.7 mm (23.65 in), the second lowest on record behind 2015 with 574.5 mm (22.62 in). Officially, 2021 was easily the second most parched year in a series from 1928 and unofficially, since, at least, 1871.

The yellow broken line represents the rainfall anomaly trend, which indicates no significant change to wet (positive) or dry (negative) anomaly.

It was a year reigned by drought from beginning to end, and the reign is likely to go on through the upcoming months. The drought has a firm grip on the weather, being at the most intense category: severe, exceptional by some other standards. The normal annual total is 1156.7 mm (45.54 in), nearly twice the amount measured for 2021.

The rainfall deficit amounts to a whopping 556.0 mm (21.89 in) or 48 percent of the usual total for the year. This is more than the average for the first seven months of a year. Every month accrued a shortfall with the usually wettest month of the year–November, accounting for over 22 percent of the overall rainfall shortage.

This level of waterlessness for a year is extremely rare. There is only a 0.5 percent chance of the island-average being 23.65 inches or lower. This translates to the kind of dryness that has a return period of once in 200 years (1-in-200 years), on average.

Alternatively, there is less than a 10 percent chance of such harsh weather reoccurring in the next 20 years. One is, at least, twice as likely to see a hat-trick in a cricket match than experience the likes of such lacklustre annual rainfall.

268Weather accurately predicted a drier than usual year was likely. As early as May 2021, we indicated a 46 percent chance of below normal rainfall. The chance rose to 58 percent in June and peaked at 61 percent in August. There was also a peak of 19 percent for the year to rank among the top 10 driest.

The usually wettest consecutive pair of months, October-November, almost literally produced a speck in the bucket. The frequently rainiest duo was the record driest with the trivial amount of 63.8 mm (2.51 in) with each month recording less than an inch-and-a-half of rainfall for the first time, on record. Combined, the shortfall for the months accounted for 45 percent of the year’s deficit. The previous lowest for this period was 89.7 mm (3.53 in), in 1983.  

The last quarter (October-December) was also the driest on record, dating back to 1928. The total of 127.3 mm (5.01 in) shattered the previous record of 143.0 mm (5.63 in), for the last three months of the year, set in 1983. Usually, this period precipitates 397.5 mm (15.65 in), over thrice what actually fell.

It was essentially a year without a wet season (July-December). The dry season pretty much went on and on, for the whole year, resulting in a record-breaking dry wet season. The season’s total of 396.0 mm (15.59 in) retired the previous driest wet season of 1983, which accumulated 405.6 mm (15.97 in). Cumulatively, the third and fourth quarter rainfall represented just 53% of the normal amount of 746.8 mm (29.40 in). A typical dry season (January-June) averages more rainfall than occurred for the 2021 wet season.

While the island on a whole had near-record-breaking low rainfall, parts of the country actually had record dryness. Coolidge, in northeast Antigua, had a record low rainfall of 469.6 mm (18.49 in), crushing the previous record of 554.0 mm (21.81 in) set in 2015. This represents only 47 percent of the normal annual total of 1000.8 mm (39.40 in). This kind of rainfall scarcity occurs only once every 333 years, on average, or a less than 10 percent chance of occurring in the next 35 years or the next generation.

It is unclear as to what was responsible for this nearly unprecedented dryness. The usual culprit: El Niño was not only absent but his sister: La Niña, usually the rainmaker, was present, yet to little avail. The dryness may have been mainly the result of a consistent stream of dry and dusty air from the Sahara Desert along with a cooler than usually tropical North Atlantic.

There is the saying: “If rain does not fill a [water] drum, dew is not going to fill it.” Meaning, if the wet season did not end the droughts, particularly the hydrological and socioeconomic ones, how can the dry season, which we are in, do so? It can’t; hence, the sufferation from insufficient rainfall could continue through the next six months.

The last 10 years have been the driest decade for Antigua. Five of the last 10 years have had below normal rainfall with 2015 and 2021 ranking one and two, on record. Only one year (2020) has had above normal rainfall since 2011.

Other Caribbean islands are having similar challenges with rainfall or lack thereof. For example, the Henry Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix was said to be on track, in December, to record its third driest year, on record dating back 58 years. A number of other parts of the Caribbean were also on the way to record rainfall ranking among the top 10 lowest.  

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Near Record Driest November for Antigua

7 12 2021

Dale C. S. Destin|

Most Antiguans alive have never endured a November like the just ended one. The month was second driest on record, dating back to 1928. It registered a near record breaking 29.2 mm (1.15 in) of rainfall, the lowest since 25.1 mm (0.99 in) in 1947, almost 75 years ago. This very rare November rainfall event has around a 0.7 percent chance annually or once every 143 years, on average.

November usually logs 152.1 mm (5.99 in) of rainfall annually (1991-2020); this means that only a little over 19 percent of the usual total fell this year. The deficit of 81 percent is the second worst for the year, behind May with 83 percent. November is usually the wettest month of the year.

The absentee rainfall for November has virtually ensured that 2021 will be among the top eight driest, on record. Although unlikely, this year could even break the record for the driest year set by 2015, when just 574.5 mm (22.62 in) rainfall was accumulated.

Thus far, the total for 2021, through November, stood at 537.2 mm (21.15 in). Normally, this period yields 1059.2 mm (41.7 in); hence, there is close to a 50 percent shortfall of rainfall. Less than 37.3 mm (1.47 in) of rainfall for December would see the record fall. Such low annual rainfall is extremely rare. The chance of this meagre annual total is less than 0.2 percent. This translates to a 500-year event or worse, an event with a return period of once every 500 years or more, on average.

November has also virtually sealed the fate of the wet season (July-December). It is certain to be among the driest, if not the driest, on record. The current record is 405.6 mm (15.97 in) for the 1983 wet season. Thus far, July-November, the total for the 2021 wet season is 332.5 mm (13.09 in).

While it is possible that the rainfall for the wet season will be at a record low, the rainfall for the last seven months ending November was in fact record breaking. No other May-November has been drier, on record going back to, at least, 1928. The total of 405.4 mm (15.96 in), for this year, eclipsed that of 406.4 mm (16.00 in) observed in 2015.

It goes without saying that serious meteorological drought continues, and it is highly likely to get worse, in the short-term. Also evident are agriculturalhydrologicalecological and socio-economic droughts, at varying intensities. Potworks Reservoir now has ZERO drop of water. All other surface catchments are in a similar state or below extraction levels.

Potworks Reservoir with zero drop of water – December 2, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin, Humane Society

Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the countries water resource manager, informed the public yesterday that 95 percent of all potable water, being produced by the organization, is desalinated water from the sea. We were also informed that the total water production of six million gallons per day is, at least,  a million gallons below the country’s daily requirement; hence, water is being rationed.

With such lean rainfall figures and with the recent conclusion of COP26, the obvious question would be: Was this caused by anthropogenic (human induced) climate change? From my reading of the latest IPCC report and other papers, the answer is no. According to the report, there is a low confidence in the change in agricultural and ecological droughts in the Caribbean, thus far. However, the long-term projection is for an increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts, but this will not be for all regions. Unfortunately ,the Caribbean is likely to be among the regions to bear the negative changes.

Whereas climate change is unlikely to have been a factor in November’s rainfall, or lack thereof; it was noted that suppressing rainfall conditions prevailed across the area for much of the month. Strong positive velocity potential anomalies caused sinking air, which is prohibitive to cloud growth and hence rainfall. The velocity potential is associated with the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) with positive values being indicative of the dry portion of it.

Three-day centred average animation of daily IR and 200-hPa velocity potential anomalies (base period 1991-2020). Velocity potential anomalies are proportional to divergence with green (brown) contours corresponding to regions in which convection tends to be enhanced (suppressed).

This extreme dryness for November was not endured by Antigua only. The unusually low or near record breaking rainfall was observed across much of the Eastern Caribbean. For example, reports out of Trinidad and Tobago indicate that much of the country had its second driest November, on record.

November was the last hope for the replenishment of national surface catchments, this year. With the very disappointing rainfall, the next possible time for replenishing precipitation is May. The issue with insufficient potable water is likely to get worse before getting better.

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Third Busiest Hurricane Season Ends

1 12 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

The third busiest Atlantic hurricane season–2021, ended yesterday. The season produced 21 named storms, the third highest on record, behind 2020 with 30 and 2005 with 28. The season also produced 7 hurricanes, tied for 32nd highest on record dating back to 1851. Further, there were four major hurricanes, Category 3 and over, which tied for the 18th highest on record. Thirty-two other seasons had seven hurricanes and 18 others had 4 major hurricanes.

Although the most eye-catching statistic for a given season is the number of storms, this is not the metric used to determine its overall activity. The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index remains the internationally accepted metric used to categorize the activity of a season. The ACE takes into consideration not only the number of named cyclones but also their strength and duration. Hence, based on the ACE, 2021 is the 29th most active hurricane season on record, with an ACE index of 142.

The most active hurricane season on record remains 1933 with an ACE of 259, 44% more than 2020, the record busiest season, w.r.t. the number of named storms, NOT ACE. The 1933 season was also over 80% more active than 2021. Thus, notwithstanding the headline-grabbing 21 named storms for 2021, the season was nowhere close to being the third most active. Activity has to do with the ACE, while busyness has to do with the number of named storms.

Based on NOAA’s classification, the 2021 season was above normal. However, NOAA’s classification of season has its challenges, allowing for one season to simultaneously have two classifications. Also, NOAA uses the 1991-2020 period the define an average season but uses the 1951-2020 period to determine if season is normal or not. A better approach is to classify seasons strictly by the ACE index, as does by 268Weather. This approach categorises the 2021 season as near normal; based on the 1991-2020 climate period, the 2021 ACE of 142 falls in the middle tercile. An average season produces 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, 3 major hurricanes and ACE of 123.

268Weather’s seasonal hurricane forecasts fairly accurately predicted the number of named storms and major hurricanes. However, we did not do as well with the other parameters, particularly the important ACE index. Based on the number of named storms, the ACE is unusually low. This is largely because of the record high nine shorties–storms lasting two days or less. Notwithstanding, tropical cyclone metric forecast by 268Weather fell within the 70% confidence. Interestingly, as little as 30 years ago, most of these shorties would have gone undetected, resulting in the official numbers being significantly less.

As busy as the season was, thankfully, Antigua and Barbuda along with the rest of the Leeward Islands and the British Virgin Islands were spared. Officially, the record will likely say that we were impacted by Tropical Storm Grace; however, this system bought ZERO storm-force winds to our shores.

The season got off to an early start with Tropical Storm Ana on May 22 and closed early with the dissipation of Tropical Storm Wanda on November 7. After flurry of storms from mid-June to mid-July, ending with Elsa (July 1-14), the season went on a bit of a hiatus until August 11, when Tropical Storm Fred formed. In less than one-and-half month, from August 11 to September 29, 15 storms formed, more than the average for a season. October went virtually stormless except for the eleventh-hour development of Tropical Storm Wanda on October 31, exhausting the 21-name Atlantic list.

The most powerful cyclone for the season was Category 4 Major Hurricane Sam, which had peak sustained winds of 250 km/h (155 mph). Sam did not make landfall; hence, it caused minimal impact.

The most deadly and destructive system was  Category 4 Major Hurricane Ida, which had peak sustained winds of 240 km/h (150 mph). It killed 115 persons and caused over US$65 billion in damage, becoming the sixth costliest Atlantic tropical cyclone on record. It impacted mainly the Cayman Islands, Cuba and the Gulf and East Coasts of the United States.

A couple notable records for the season:

  • Elsa became the earliest 5th Atlantic named storm on record when it was named July 1. The previous record was set by Edouard on July 6, 2020.
  • 2021 tied with 2007 for the most shorties (storms lasting <=2 days), on record.  
  • 2021 marks the first time of back-to-back exhaustion of the list of Atlantic named storms.

The 2022 hurricane season will officially begin June 1 and 268Weather will issue monthly forecasts starting early April.

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Tropical Cyclone and Climate Change According to the IPCC

19 11 2021

Dale C. S. Destin|

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group I, recently issued its report: Climate Change 2021, The Physical Science Basis. Living in the Caribbean, I was particularly interested on what it had to say about the poster child of climate change–tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes). This is of particular interest to me and the Caribbean public, which there must be clarity on for the purposes of, among other things, adaptation planning since climate change mitigation is virtually a lost cause.

Global Annual Total of Named Storms (Subtropical Storms, Tropical Storms and Hurricanes) Showing no Significant Trend

Having interrogated the document and obtained the answers, I present my findings in an interview report format for simplicity and clarity:

Dale Destin: Has climate change caused an increase in the number of tropical cyclones globally?

IPCC: There is low confidence in long-term (multi-decadal to centennial) trends in the frequency of all-category tropical cyclones (A.3.4).

DD: Has there been an increase in the strength of tropical cyclones, due to climate change?

IPCC: It is likely that the global proportion of major (Category 3–5) tropical cyclone occurrence has increased over the last four decades (A.3.4).

DD: Are tropical cyclones producing more rainfall?

IPCC: Event attribution studies and physical understanding indicate that human-induced climate change increases heavy precipitation associated with tropical cyclones (high confidence) but data limitations inhibit clear detection of past trends on the global scale (A.3.4).

DD: Will climate change cause an increase in the number of tropical cyclones?

IPCC: The total global number of tropical cyclones is expected to decrease or remain unchanged (medium confidence) (TS.2.3)

DD: What is the projection for tropical cyclone strength?

IPCC: The proportion of intense tropical cyclones (categories 4-5) and peak wind speeds of the most intense tropical cyclones are projected to increase at the global scale with increasing global warming (high confidence) (B.2.4).

As real as climate change is, the impact on tropical cyclones–the poster child for climate change, is limited, at best, thus far. While it is “likely” that there may be an increase in the global number of major tropical cyclones over the last 40 years, there is low confidence in any increase over the long-term.

While currently climate change has had a limited impact on tropical cyclones, this is likely to change for the worst in the future. The overall total global numbers of tropical cyclones may not change but there is high confidence that there will be an increase in categories 4-5 tropical cyclones.

Tropical cyclones have been made the poster child of climate change; however, based on the IPCC Report, they have not earned this poster-child position, yet.

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Near Normal Rainfall for September, Drought Continues

27 10 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

September joins June as the only two months of the year, thus far, to register near normal rainfall, all others had below normal figures. The month produced 122.2 mm (4.81 in) of rainfall, the highest total for any month since December 2020; notwithstanding, drought continues through September. The rainfall for the last nine months ranks among the worst on record, and it is still unclear as to when there will be significant respite.

The rainfall for September is the second lowest since 2015. However, the total for the month was a decent 90 percent of the normal value of 136.4 mm (5.37 in), only a deficit of 10 percent.

The period July-September was also drier than usual. The total of 268.7 mm (10.58 in) was the 18th lowest on record starting 1928. The last time this period was drier was 2015 with 168.1 mm (6.62 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. Thus far, this January to September is the sixth driest on record and the driest since 2015. The first three-quarters of the year has only a meagre 473.5 mm (18.64 in), only a little over 62 percent of the usual rainfall of 759.0 mm (29.88 in). The five drier January to September are 2015, 2003, 2001, 1939 and 1930. The year is on track to be among the top 10 driest or worst, on record.  

Since the 2020 November’s deluge, the last ten months, December-September, is the seventh driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only returned 65 percent of normal rainfall.

The upcoming three months, November to January, has equal chance of below, near or above normal rainfall. Meanwhile, some of the more reliable models are still forecasting the continuation of below usual rainfall being most likely. Looking at the glass half full, near to above normal rainfall is more likely than not.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting equal chance of below, near or above normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda.

As the meteorological drought goes, so go the other droughts: agricultural, hydrological and ecological. There is the continuing concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought, if it has not already done so. However, the rainfall of September did stabilise or eased the droughts a bit.

Our conversion of sea water to fresh water has built drought resilience; however, obtaining potable water from this source is several time more expensive than from surface and underground catchments. Also, it has negative climate and environmental consequences, further adding to the overall expense of using the sea as a source for fresh water. Unfortunately, these “evils” are virtually unavoidable, for the foreseeable future.

Potworks Reservoir remains below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, according to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. Water rationing continues and with the rainfall outlook unclear, an end is unforecastable, at this time. Daily water use continues to outstrip production by about one million gallons.

Potworks Reservoir, Bethesda, Antigua, still on the verge of becoming totally dry – Oct 2, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

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Drier than Usual August, Drought Continues

27 09 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

Like every month of the year, except June, August was drier than usual. The month yielded only 81.0 mm (3.19 in) of rainfall. With continued below normal rainfall, drought continues. The rainfall for the last eight months ranks among the worst on record and there is still not much respite in sight.

The rainfall for August is the second lowest since 2015. The total for the month represents only 71 percent of the normal value of 114.8 mm (4.52 in), a deficit of 29 percent.

The period June-August was also drier than usual. The total of 202.2 mm (7.96 in) was the 18th lowest on record starting 1928. The last time this period was drier was 2015 with 95.0 mm (3.74 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. The last eight months is the fourth driest on record and the driest since 2015. January to August produced only a meagre 351.3 mm (13.83 in), only a little above half of the usual rainfall of 622.0 mm (24.51 in). Just three years have been drier through August: 2015, 2001 and 1939.  

Since the 2020 November’s deluge, the last nine months, December-August, is the fifth driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only returned 61 percent of normal rainfall.

The upcoming three months, October to December, is likely to see further misery from lower than usual rainfall. Majority of models are forecasting the continuation of drier than normal weather. Hence, more rainfall deficits likely.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 50-60% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean.

As the meteorological drought goes, so go the other droughts: agricultural, hydrological and ecological. There is the continuing concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought, if it has not already done so. Our utilisation of the ocean for fresh water has made us drought resilient; however, obtaining potable water from this source is several time more expensive than from surface and underground catchments. Also, it has negative climate and environmental consequences, further adding to the overall expense of using the sea as a source for fresh water.  

Potworks Reservoir remains below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, according to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. Water rationing is officially into its second month and with the rainfall outlook being gloomy, it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Potworks Reservoir, Bethesda, Antigua, still on the verge of becoming totally dry – Sep 2, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

APUA water manager, Ian Lewis, told the media on August 31, that the Authority is only able to produce six million of the seven-and-a-half million gallons required to serve the country daily. There is not enough water to go around for everyone each day; hence, the rationing.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. The countries around us remain  thirsty for rainfall also. Deficit rainfall is occurring across the rest of the Leeward Islands, the northern Windward Islands, Hispaniola, Cuba and the Bahamas. And it is probable that it will worsen, over the upcoming months.

CMORPH 180-Day Total Rainfall Anomaly (mm) for the period 26 Mar to 21 Sep 2021

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Twin Anniversary of Hurricanes Irma and Luis, where do they Stand Among the Worst Hurricanes to Impact Antigua and Barbuda.

6 09 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

They both struck on September 5-6 after traversing over the warm waters of the Tropical North Atlantic. Twenty-six years to the day Hurricane Luis (1995) almost totalled Antigua and Barbuda; twenty-two years later, four years ago, Hurricane Irma (2017) did similarly to Barbuda.

Twenty-six years to the day Luis overwhelm our islands, with the centre partially passing over Barbuda and within 25 miles (40 km) of Antigua. Four years ago today, the date of Irma evoked memories of Luis, but it was no Luis.

Irma set a virtually unreachable bar for strength, but Luis set the record for size and cost. Luis was a great big giant while Irma was a mighty midget. The diameter of Irma’s hurricane-force winds was less than 75 miles (121 km) with a radius of less than 25 miles south of the centre. Contrastingly, the diameter for the hurricane-force winds of Luis was at least twice Irma’s, over 150 miles (241 km), with the hurricane force-wind extending about 50 miles (80 km) to the south.

Hurricane Irma on Sep 5 (top) and Hurricane Luis on Sep 3 (bottom) via NOAA satellites

Strength matters but clearly size matters more. Although both hurricanes took a similar journey through the area, Luis caused hurricane-force winds to reach both Antigua and Barbuda, whereas none reach Antigua from Irma. While in our neck of the woods, Luis had peak sustained winds of 140 mph (225 km/h) and Irma had 180 mph, 129% the strength of Luis but about 50% its size. This is what saved Antigua from the Category 5+++ wrath of Irma.

The actual paths of Hurricanes Irma and Luis courtesy NOAA Historical Hurricane Tracks

Antigua and Barbuda has been impacted by 14 major hurricanes, passing within 69 miles (111 km), on record dating back to 1851. There have been four in the last 26 years–Jose and Irma 2017, Georges 1998 and Luis 1995.

Meteo-France radar image showing the eye of Hurricane Irma passing over Barbuda, about 25 miles north of Antigua, 1:15 am (05:15 UTC) Wednesday Sep 6, 2017

A hurricane that compares well with Irma and Luis is Dog of 1950. Dog, also known as “the great hurricane of the central Atlantic”, came through as a Category 4 hurricane with wind of 130 mph (209 km/h). Its centre passed within 10  miles (16 km) of Antigua and within 15 miles (24 km) of Barbuda. Its powerful eyewall would have impacted both islands, like Luis 45 years later.

Prior to Luis, Dog was considered the most severe hurricane on record in Antigua and Barbuda. The damage caused by Dog amounted to up to US$1 million. In today’s currency, that is equivalent to US$8 million, paling in comparison to the US$100 to US$350 million (US$216 to US$755 million 2021) caused by Luis. Dog’s damage also pales in comparison to that of Irma’s US$136 million (US$153 million 2021). Total damage and loss from Irma were about US$155 million (US$174 million 2021).

Downtown St. John’s, Antigua with piles of galvanize

Irma ranks as the strongest hurricane to pass within 69 miles of Antigua in the record books, which dates back to 1851. Luis ranks sixth and Dog ranks seventh. Interestingly, 9 of the 14 major hurricanes passing less than 70 miles of Antigua and Barbuda occurred in the pre-climate change era–1980. The second and third strongest were in 1899 and 1928 respectively.

Major hurricanes to pass within 69 miles of Antigua and Barbuda 1851 to 2021. Multiply by 1.61 to get km/h
NOAA satellite image showing Barbuda in the eye of Irma 1:45 am (05:45 UTC) Wednesday, 6 Sep 2021

Congratulations to all who survived these hurricane nightmares, which I hate to call anniversaries. Let’s hope we don’t see another Luis or Irma-like major hurricane, which is perhaps wishful hoping. More realistically, let us prepare as much as possible to be hurricane strong i.e. hurricane resilient, so that we are able to put up a better fight to resist the next hurricane be it major or not.

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Correction: In the original blog post published on September 6, 2021, I mistakenly calculated the current day value of the damage and loss caused by Hurricanes Dog, Luis and Irma. I updated the post to fix the mistakes on September 13. Apologies for the miscalculations.





Drier than Usual July, Drought Continues

27 08 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

July was drier than usual like the first five months of the year. The month yielded only 65.5 mm (2.58 in) of rainfall. Although July took over from June as being the wettest month for the current year; it barely made a dent in the ongoing droughts. July has become the only month of the year, thus far, to clock over two-and-half inches of rain. The rainfall for the last seven months ranks among the worst on record and there is not much respite in sight.

Potworks Reservoir, Bethesda, Antigua, on the verge of becoming totally dry – July 7, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

The rainfall for July is the lowest since 2018, when the country had 39.6 mm (1.56 in). The total for the month represents only 67 percent of the normal value of 98.0 mm (3.86 in), a deficit of 33 percent.

The period May-July was also drier than usual. The total of 138.4 mm (5.45 in) was the 13th driest on record starting 1928. The last time this period was drier was 2015 with 74.4 mm (2.96 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. The last seven months is the fifth driest on record and the driest since 2015. January to July produced only a meagre 270.3 mm (10.64 in), only a little above half of the usual rainfall of 500.1 mm (19.69 in). Again, just four other years have been drier through July: 2015, 2001, 1977 and 1939.

Since the 2020 November’s deluge, the last eight months, December-July, is the seventh driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only yielded 58 percent of normal rainfall. Our starving landscape and parched grounds continue to bear witness to the below normal rainfall.

The upcoming autumn, September to November, is likely to see us continue to suffer from a scarcity of rainfall. The majority of models are forecasting the continuation of lower-than-normal rainfall. Hence, the drought is likely to continue. Our largest catchment, Potworks Reservoir, along with others, are transitioning to dry land, again.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 50-60% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean.

Based on models which correlate our sea surface temperatures, across the tropics, with our rainfall, the medium and long term continue to look brown. The year will most likely remain drier than usual with a 61 percent chance of below normal rainfall; this is up 11 percent from last month.

As the meteorological drought goes, so go the other droughts: agricultural, hydrological and ecological. There is also the growing concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought, if it has not already done so. Our utilisation of the ocean around us for fresh water has made us resilient; however, this is expensive water, over seven times the cost of that from surface and ground water.  

Potworks Reservoir remain below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, according the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. Water rationing has officially started and with the rainfall outlook being gloomy, it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. The countries around us remain  thirsty for rainfall. Deficit rainfall is occurring across the rest of the Leeward Islands, and it is probable that it will worsen, over the upcoming months.  

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August Updated Forecast for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

19 08 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

The forecast for the 2021 hurricane Season continues to call for an active season with the possibility of it being super-hyperactive. The confidence of an above normal season has remained virtually unchanged at 78%. It is also possible that the season could be super hyperactive or well above normal, with numbers reaching the top 10 percentile 1991-2020 base period or current climate period.

The prediction is now for 22 named storms (subtropical storms, tropical storms and hurricanes), with a 70 percent confidence or high confidence of the number ranging between 17 to 28. It is also likely–69 percent chance, that the number of named storms will exceed 19 and be in the top 10 percentile of the current climate period.

My forecast also calls for an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 188 with a high confidence of the range being 115 to 284. Also predicted are 11 hurricanes with a 70 percent confidence of  the total being 7 to 15, and 5 major hurricanes with high confidence of 3 to 7.

The season could also be well above normal or super hyperactive. There is also a 45% chance of the ACE exceeding 223, the top 10 percentile of the current climate period. Further, there is a massive 69% chance of more than 19 named storms or the number of named storms reaching the top 10 percentile. There is also a 41% chance of more than 11 hurricanes and 45% chance of more than 6 major hurricanes.

If this forecast pans out, this season would be the most active since 2017, in terms of ACE, and the 10th most active on record dating back to 1851. It would also be ranked third for the highest number of named storms, tied for 5th for the most hurricanes and 11th for the most major hurricanes.

If the season turns out to be hyperactive, as is possible, it will rank even higher. Only seven seasons have had a higher ACE than 223; three seasons with more than 19 named storms; four with more than 11 hurricanes and two with more than 6 major hurricanes.

The season initially got off to a “flyer” but became sedate in July. Since the start of August, activity has picked back up, going at a rate of of about one-and-half times the normal season. To date, there have been eight named storms with three becoming hurricanes. A typical season, based on the standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

The main reason for the above normal forecast is the likely weak La Niña conditions or cold El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during August to October–the peak of the hurricane season.

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Wettest Month of the Year, Serious Drought Continues

21 07 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

June has become the only month of the year, thus far, to clock over two inches of rain. This makes it esaily the wettest month of the year, to date; notwithstanding, serious meteorological drought continues for Antigua. The rainfall for the last six months rank among the worst on record. Despite the prayers for rainfall, the heavens look set to provide only sparing amounts, over the upcoming months.

Potworks Reservoir, Bethesda, Antigua, on the verge of becoming totally dry – July 7, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

The rainfall for June was 55.6 mm (2.19 in), the highest for the month since 2017, when the country had 84.8 mm (3.34 in). Notwithstanding, despite being the only month thus far with more than two inches of rain, relatively, June had near normal rainfall with the amount being below the month’s average of 68.1 mm (2.68 in).

Despite being the wettest month, so far, June continues to be the only month that is deemed to have a statistically significant drying trend, i.e. June has gotten drier over the years. The month went from a peak average of 98.6 mm (3.88 in) over 1931-1960 to a minimum of 55.6 mm (2.19 in) over 1971-2000, rebounding to 68.1 mm (2.68 in) over the last 30 years, 1991-2020.

The period April-June was very dry. The total of 111.8 mm (4.40 in) was the fourth driest since independence, 1981, and the eleventh lowest rainfall received for April-June, on record dating back to 1928. Interestingly, April-June 2020 was drier with 78.7 mm (3.10 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. The just ended dry season, January-June, is the fifth driest on record and the driest since 2015. The last six months yielded only a paltry 204.7 mm (8.06 in), only half of the usual rainfall of 410.0 mm (16.14 in). Just four other years have had a drier first half: 2015, 2001, 1977 and 1939. The record driest dry season is held by 2001 with 130.0 mm (5.12 in).

Our last wet month was November. It flooded severely across parts of the islands; however, the beneficial rainfall is becoming a distant memory, as indicated by our drying and empty catchments. Since November, the last seven months, December-June, was the sixth driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only yielded 58 percent of normal rainfall. Our starving landscape and parched grounds continue to bear witness to the absent rainfall.

The upcoming season, August to October, is likely to see us continuing to suffer from a dearth of rainfall. The majority of models are forecasting the continuation of scarce rainfall. Hence, the drought is likely to continue. Our largest catchment, Potworks Reservoir, along with others, are trending toward becoming dry land, again.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 50-60% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda. Also, below normal rainfall is most likely for much of the northern islands.

Based on models which correlate our sea surface temperatures, across the tropics, with our rainfall, the medium and long term continue to look brown. The year will most likely remain drier than usual with a 50 percent chance of below normal rainfall; this is down 8 percent from last month.

As the meteorological drought goes, so go the other droughts: agricultural, hydrological and ecological. There is also the growing concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought, if it has not already done so. Our utilisation of the ocean around us for fresh water has made us resilient; however, at a very high cost, as potable water from this source cost at least seven times that from surface and ground water, I am told.  

In the last month, Potworks Reservoir fell below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, except for Donnings Reservoir, according the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. With the rainfall outlook bleak, we could be out of all surface water in weeks. Water rationing is imminent, if not already occurring.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. The countries around us remains  thirsty for rainfall. Deficit rainfall is occurring across the rest of the Leeward Islands, and it is probable that it will worsen, over the upcoming months before improving, based on recent forecasts.

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