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.  

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





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.

Please share this blog, if you found it useful and follow me for more on the ongoing hurricane season, which, god forbid, could end up to be another wild one like last year; also follow for all things weather and climate – TwitterFacebook and Instagram.





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.

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





July Updated Forecast for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

12 07 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

Category 1 Hurricane Elsa going through the southern Caribbean July 2, 2021.

Not the potentially stressful news anyone wants to hear, but it is what it is; the 2021 hurricane season could challenge the numbers of the 2020 record breaking season. My updated forecast for the Season is out, and it continues to call for an above normal season being pretty much expected. The confidence of an above normal season has increased to 79%. 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, which would also be top 8 of all times, dating back to 1851.

The prediction is now for 24 named storms (subtropical storms, tropical storms and hurricanes), with a 70 percent confidence or high confidence of the number ranging between 18 to 31. It is also very likely–74 percent chance (up 18), that the number of named storms will exceed 19 and be in the top 4 seasons of the historical record, dating back to 1851.

My forecast also calls for an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 191 (up 5) with a high confidence of the range being 119 to 288. Also predicted are 10 hurricanes (up 1) with a 70 percent confidence of  the total being 7 to 14, and 5 major hurricanes (unchanged) with high confidence of 3 to 7.

The season could not only be above normal but well above normal or super hyperactive. There is also a 45% chance of the ACE exceeding 223, the top 10 percentile of the 1991-2020 base period. Further, there is a massive 74% chance of more than 19 named storms or the number of named storms reaching the top 10 percentile. There is also a 45% chance of more than 11 hurricanes and 44% 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 and tied for 9th for the most hurricanes and major hurricanes respectively.

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.

Already, the season is off to a “flyer”. Already, there has been five named storms (close to four times the average to date) and one hurricane (close to three times the average to date) . The ACE to date is 12.8. In other words, year-to-date, there is normally 1-2 names storms, instead of 5; 1 hurricane every three years and ACE of 4, as opposed to 12.8, which is over three times the normal rate, up to this point in the season.

The main reasons for the above normal forecasts are the likely above normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean and a weak La Niña conditions and or a cold-neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during August to October–the peak of the hurricane season.

A typical season, based on the standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 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 is updated monthly around the 15th each month until August. The next update will be issued around August 15. Note that these forecasts are to be taken as guides and not as gospel.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and will conclude on November 30. Be prepared! Please share this blog, if you found it useful and follow me for more on the ongoing hurricane season, which, god forbid, could be another wild one like last year; also follow for all things weather and climate – TwitterFacebook and Instagram.





2nd Driest May on Record, Serious Drought Continues

23 06 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

We have just witnessed the second driest May, in Antigua, on record dating back to 1928. It was also the bottom 10 driest March-May and the bottom 4 driest January-May. With such significant rainfall shortage, the meteorological drought continues for Antigua, with a return to serious intensity. Much of the drought impacts are being mask; notwithstanding, the country is feeling it deep in the pocket and models indicate that this will continue for much of the upcoming three months.

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 Caribbean Basin.

The rainfall for May was 17.3 mm (0.68 in), the lowest since 2001, when the country had 6.4 mm (0.25 in). The total for the month was almost unimaginably low at 17 percent of the normal of 101.1 mm (3.98 in). Only eight other Mays have had less than an inch of rain. Overall, it was the 13th driest month of all 1121 on record.

The meteorological spring, March-May, was also very dry. The total of 85.3 mm (3.36 in) was the ninth lowest for the season. The last time we had a drier spring was 2015.  

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record and easily the driest since 2015. The year-to-date total is a meagre 149.1 mm (5.87 in), only 44 percent of the usual rainfall of 341.6 mm (13.45 in). The absent rainfall, 192.5 mm (7.58 in), is more than the annual average for January, February and March combined. Only three other years have had a drier start: 2015 with 140.2 mm (5.52 in); 2001 with 113.0 mm (4.45 in) and 1939 with 131.8 mm (5.19 in).

Our last wet month was November, which was floodingly wet. Since then, the last six months, December-May, is the fourth driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only yielded 53 percent of normal rainfall. Our drying catchments and thirsty brownish landscape bear witness to the missing rainfall.

The upcoming season, July to September, is likely to be drier than normal. The majority of models are forecasting the continuation of deficit rainfall. Hence, the drought is likely to continue. Our largest catchment, Potworks Dam, along with others, could again revert to dry lands and shortcuts for vehicular traffic.

Based on models which correlate our sea surface temperatures, across the tropics, with our rainfall, the medium and long term continue to look brown. This dry season, January-June, is expected to be among the five driest on record. Meanwhile, the year is likely to be drier than usual with a 58 percent chance of below normal rainfall; this is up 12 percent from last month. There is a non-trivial 18 percent probability of the year’s rainfall falling in the bottom 10 percentile.

As the meteorological drought goes or worsens, so go or will 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.  

Potworks Dam is close to falling below extraction levels. With the rainfall outlook bleak, we could be out of surface water in weeks. Water rationing is imminent, if not already occurring.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. Much of the Eastern Caribbean remains  thirsty for rainfall. Deficit rainfall is occurring across many places, and it is probable that the it will worsen and or spread to other islands, over the upcoming months, based on recent forecasts, particularly the central Windward Islands to the Dominican Republic. For May, most of the Caribbean Basin had less that 50 percent of the usual rainfall, with some areas receiving less than ONE percent.

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





June Updated Forecast for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

19 06 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

The numbers for this hurricane season are likely to be very high once again. My updated forecast for the 2021 season is out, and it continues to call for an above normal season being likely. The confidence of an above normal season has grown from 69 to 78%. It is also possible that the season could be super hyperactive with more than 19 named storms likely.

The prediction is still for 22 named 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–56 percent chance (down 2), that the number of named storms will exceed 19 and be in the top 10 percentile of the historical record, dating back to 1851.

My forecast also calls for an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 186 (up 7) with a high confidence of the range being 112 to 286. There is also a 44 percent chance (up 9) of the ACE index exceeding 223. Also predicted are 9 hurricanes (down 1) with a 70 percent confidence of  the total being 6 to 13, and 5 major hurricanes (up 1) with high confidence of 2 to 7.

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 and tied for 11th and 17th for the most hurricanes and major hurricanes respectively.

The main reasons for the above normal forecasts are the likely above normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical North Atlantic and a weak La Niño and or cold-neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during August to October–the peak of the hurricane season.

A typical season, based on the standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 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 is updated monthly around the 15th each month until August. The next update will be issued around July 15.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1 and will conclude on November 30. Be prepared! Please share this blog, if you found it useful and follow me for more on the ongoing hurricane season, which unfortunately could be another wild one, and for all things weather and climate – TwitterFacebook and Instagram.





Drought Continues

25 05 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

With continued below normal rainfall through April, the meteorological drought continues for Antigua; however, it has eased to slight intensity as compared to serious at the end of March. Notwithstanding, we remain in a serious drought with significant cumulative rainfall deficits that are likely to have socio-economic impacts. Models continue to portray a dry scene for the upcoming months.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 60-70% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the Caribbean Basin.

We continue to witness the driest start to a year since 2015 and the eighth driest quadrimester for Antigua in a series that dates to 1928. The island-average rainfall of 131.8 mm (5.19 in) represents only 55 percent of the normal total for January to April; hence, 45 percent of the regular stream of water from the heaven was missed and is evident by our thirsty brownish landscape. Further, from the flooding rainfall in November to the end of April (December-April), only 64 percent of the normal rainfall has fallen. This is the 10th lowest on record.

The background is a picture of Potworks Dam, Antigua taken May 3, 2021 by Karen Corbin of the Humane Society.

The rainfall for this April of 38.9 mm (1.53 in) is more than twice the amount fell last April; however, it is the second lowest since 2006. The total was only 51 percent of the usual amount for mid-spring; hence, an unmissable deficit of 49 percent.

There is no discernible respite in the near future. The majority of models are forecasting deficit rainfall to be the order of, at least, the next three months. Thus, the drought is likely to continue. Our catchments could again revert to mud patches and or grasslands, which has virtually become an annual phenomenon.

Based on models which correlate our sea surface temperatures, across the tropics, with our rainfall, the medium and long term look brown. There is a 78 percent chance of the dry season, January to June, will suffer below normal rainfall. Further, there is a 52 percent chance of the dry season rainfall being in the bottom 10 percentile i.e. less than 10 inches, when the average is 16.14 inches. For the year, the forecast is for a 46 percent chance of it being drier than usual, with a non-trivial probability of 19 percent of well below usual, possibly with about a 24 percent deficit in the annual total.

Rainfall projection for Antigua in inches. A for chance of above normal; N for near normal and B for below normal. The background is a picture of Potworks Dam taken May 3, 2021 by Karen Corbin of the Humane Society.
Rainfall projection for Antigua in inches. A for chance of above normal; N for near normal and B for below normal. The background is a picture of Potworks Dam taken May 3, 2021 by Karen Corbin of the Humane Society.

Other droughts generally lag meteorological droughts; it is evident from our catchments that agricultural, hydrological and ecological droughts, to some degree, are also occurring or imminent. There is also the concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought. Our utilisation of the ocean around us for fresh water has made us resilient; however, there are still likely to be notable impacts, when the other droughts get underway in earnest.

Image from the Landsat satellite showing the contrasting green landscape of December 9, 2020, one month after the deluge of November 9-10, 2020, compared to the brown drought-ridden landscape of May 2, 2021

Potworks Dam is down to around a quarter. With the rainfall outlook bleak, we could virtually be out of surface water soon. Water rationing is imminent, if not already occurring.

Antigua continues not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. Much of the Eastern Caribbean is having a similar thirst for rainfall, especially for December 2020 to April 2021. Short and long-term droughts continue to evolve across many places, and it is probable that the shortfall in precipitation will worsen and or spread to other islands, particularly the eastern ones, over the upcoming months, based on recent forecasts.

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





May Updated Forecast for the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

12 05 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

The numbers for this Atlantic hurricane season could challenge those of the record breaking 2020 Season. My updated forecast for the 2021 Season is out, and it continues to call for an above normal season being likely. It is also possible that the season could be super hyperactive.

The prediction is for 22 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes), with a 70 confidence or high confidence of the number ranging between 15 to 29. It is also likely–58 percent chance, that the number of named storms will exceed 19 and be in the top 10 percentile of the historical record, dating back to 1851.

My forecast also calls for an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 179 (down 5) with a high confidence of the range being 89 to 266. There is also a 35 percent chance chance of the ACE index exceeding 223, super hyperactive or in the top 10 percentile of the 1991-2020 climatology. Also predicted are 10 hurricanes (up 1) with a 70 percent confidence of  the total being 6 to 14, and 4 major hurricanes (down 1) with high confidence of 2 to 7.

If this forecast pans out, this season would be the third most active since 2005, in terms of ACE, and the 14th most active on record dating back to 1851. It would also be ranked third for the highest number of named storms and tied for 9th and 19th for the most hurricanes and major hurricanes respectively. Further, the season would be deemed extremely active (hyperactive) according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) criteria i.e. ACE greater than 159.6.

According to other forecasts surveyed, the consensus is for an ACE of 152, 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes – an above normal season. This is generally consistent with my forecast but with a notable 18 percent less activity (ACE); notwithstanding, I am very confident in the 268Weather forecast. Nevertheless, regardless of the forecast, you should always prepare the same each season, as it only takes one hurricane to ruin your year and or life.

The 2020 hurricane season had a record 30 named storms, 14 hurricanes and a record tying 7 major hurricanes. There was also an ACE index of 185. Overall, the 2020 season is ranked 10th, based on ACE. The most active season, since record began in 1851, remains 1933, with an ACE of 259. Note, based on post-analysis, Tropical Storm Gamma was upgraded to a Category 1 hurricane on 17 April 2021 and Category 2 Hurricane Zeta was upgraded to Category 3 on 10 May 2021.

The main reasons for the above normal forecasts are the likely above normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical North Atlantic and a weak La Niño and or cold-neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during August to October–the peak of the hurricane season.

A typical season, based on the standard climate period 1991-2020, has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 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 10th each month until August. The next update will be issued around June 10.

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

Please share this blog, if you found it useful and follow me for more on the upcoming hurricane season, which unfortunately could be a repeat of last year, for and all things weather and climate – TwitterFacebook and Instagram.





Drought Worsens to Serious Levels

20 04 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

With continued below normal rainfall through March, the meteorological drought has worsened to serious levels for Antigua. That is the “good” news, the bad news is that the drought is likely to get worse over the next few months, as below normal rainfall is forecast by most models.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 60-70% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda; only two of the 12 models forecast near normal rainfall. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the Caribbean Basin.

This is the driest start to a year since 2015 and the ninth driest first-quarter for Antigua in a series that dates to 1928. The island-average rainfall of 93.0 mm (3.66 in) represents only 57 percent of the normal total for January to March (JFM); hence, 43 percent of the regular flow of water from our skies was missed by our plants, catchments, economy and ecosystems.

The rainfall for March of 29.2 mm (1.15 in) is the worst for the month since 2015. The total was only 63 percent of the usual amount for the first month of spring; hence, a significant deficit of 37 percent.

There is no discernible respite in the foreseeable future. The vast majority of models are forecasting deficit rainfall to be the order of the next six months. Thus, the drought is likely to get worse. Our catchments could again revert to mud patches and or grasslands, which has virtually become an annual phenomenon.

Other droughts generally lag a meteorological drought; however, it is evident from our catchments that agricultural, hydrological and ecological droughts, to some degree, are occurring or imminent. There is also the concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought. Our utilisation of the ocean around us for fresh water has made us resilient; notwithstanding, there are still likely to be notable impacts, direct and indirect, when the other droughts get underway in earnest.

The water authority, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), has already signal an end to surface water to occur in a few months, that is even more likely than when it was said over a month ago, as rainfall for April has been virtually absent, thus far. Water rationing is imminent, if not already occurring.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant first-quarter rainfall deficits. Much of the Eastern Caribbean is having a similar thirst for rainfall. Short and long-term droughts continue to evolve across many places, and it is probable that the shortfall is precipitation will worsen and or spread to most of the Basin over the upcoming months.

Exert from the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) Drought Outlook for March 2021

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





2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Early Forecast

12 04 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

We could have a repeat of the record breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season this year. My early forecast for the 2021 Season is out, and it calls for above normal activity being likely. It predicts the most likely number of named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes) to be 21; however, there is a 70 percent or high confidence of the number ranging between 17 to 30. Recall that we had an unprecedented 30 named storms last year.

My forecast also calls for an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index of 184 with a high confidence of the range being 109 to 275. The ACE for the 2020 Season was 185; just one more than is forecast for this year. Also predicted are nine hurricanes with a 70 percent confidence of  the total being 6 to 14 and 5 major hurricanes with high likelihood of a range of 2 to 7.

If this forecast pans out, this season would be the third most active since 2005, in terms of ACE, and the 11th most active in the series dating back to 1851. It would also be ranked third for the highest number of named storms and tied for 11th and 17th for the most major hurricanes and hurricanes respectively.  

According to other forecasts surveyed, the average is for an ACE of 151, 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes, an above normal season. This is generally consistent with my forecast but with a notable 22 percent less activity (ACE). Notwithstanding, I am very confident in the forecast; last year, my forecast consistently called for more storms than virtually all else and was the only one that indicated that the 2005 record could be broken and that we could get 30 or more named storms. However, regardless of the forecast, you should always prepare the same each season, as it only takes one hurricane to ruin your year and or life.

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) based on 6 forecasting entities.

Recall that the ACE is the universally accepted metric used to classify the overall activity of a hurricane season. It takes not only the number of named storms into consideration but also their intensities and duration. For example, the 2020 season had a record 30 named storms, eclipsing the record of 28 set in 2005; despite this, the ACE of 185, ranked it as the 10th most active season, eight spots behind 2005, which had an ACE of 250 and nine spots behind 1933–the record most active season with an ACE of 259. With respect to some other notable records, 2005 still holds the record for the most hurricanes with 15, and remains tied with 1961 for the highest number of major hurricanes–7.

The main reasons for the above normal forecasts are the likely above normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical North Atlantic and a cold-neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) during August to October–the peak of the hurricane season.

A typical season, based on the standard climate period 1981-2010, has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 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–2020, will be most remembered for the record 30 named storms with Major Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Eta and Iota. Collectively, they accounted for over 300 of the over 400 deaths from tropical cyclones and caused over US$32 billion of the US$51 billion in damage. The season also produced 13 hurricanes and 6 became major hurricanes.

Satellite images for all 30 named storms from the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. Credit WMO

This forecast will be updated monthly around the 10th of each month until August. The first update will be issued around May 10.

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

Please share this blog, if you found it useful and follow me for more on the upcoming hurricane season, which unfortunately could be a repeat of last year, for and all things weather and climate – TwitterFacebook and Instagram.





Drought is Back

14 03 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

Drought is back for Antigua. A slight meteorological drought is present as of the end of February. It is most likely to get worse over the next three months, as below normal rainfall is forecast by most models.

The rainfall for winter – December to February (DJF) 2020-2021, was 149.1 mm (5.87 in). This total is deemed below normal and beneath the drought threshold. Usually, DJF yields 225.8 mm (8.89 in) of rainfall, on average; hence, there is over a 75 mm (over 3 in) deficit or a 34 percent shortfall.

Rainfall for Antigua for the period December 2020 to February 2021. Picture in the background is Potworks Dam as of March 3, 2021 courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society.
Rainfall for DJF is well below the slight or worse drought threshold, nearly at moderate drought. Rainfall for this period for Antigua shows no significant trend (black dashed line). Excess rainfall tends to be more extreme than drought rainfall.

The month that is mainly responsible for the scarcity in precipitation is January, which got only 41 percent of the normal amount of 67.3 mm (2.65 in). The rainfall for February was also lower than usual, accounting for 73 percent of the normal amount of 50.0 mm (1.97 in). The rainfall for December was near normal.

The two-month rainfall for January-February (JF) of 63.8 mm (2.51 in) is the lowest since 2001. Thus, the very dry start to the year continues. With this JF ranking the eighth driest on record, only seven other years have had a drier start on record dating back to 1928.

It normally takes a few months for the effects of a meteorological drought to descend to a hydrological drought and cause potable water issues. However, the effects are already manifesting themselves in the lowering of water in catchments. Yesterday, the APUA Business Unit Water Manager – Ian Lewis, said on Observer Radio News that the country has about three to four months of surface water remaining, at current extraction rate.  

We were last in a drought April to October last year. This was a severe drought that was more than meteorological; it resulted in surface catchments transforming into mud patches and then to grass lands. It is unclear, at this stage, whether there will be a repeat of similar rainfall absence this year.

The dry conditions last year, resulted in water rationing and almost a 100 percent reliance on desalinated water. Ian Lewis has already indicated that the absence of notable rainfall over the coming months would usher in return of the water conservation schedule better known as water rationing.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing notable rainfall deficits in the wake of winter. Much of the Caribbean is suffering a similar fate, from a drier than usual dry season, thus far. Short and long-term droughts are evolving across a number of islands and there is the potential of several others joining this drought-list.

Rainfall anomaly (departure form average) in mm for the Caribbean, based on CMORPH data

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Very Dry Start to 2021

16 02 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

Antiguans have just witnessed the driest start to the year in over a generation. January 2021 was the driest January since 1977 for Antigua, with an island average of 27.4 mm (1.08 in).

Usually January yields 67.3 mm (2.65 in) of rain; however, this time, the total was down by 59%. This puts the rainfall for the month in the well below normal category – the bottom 10 percentile of the most recent climate period – 1991 to 2020.

Such low rainfall is rare for January. How rare? Once in every 27 years, on average, which translates to a 3.7 percent chance of such a low total annually. Usually, there is over a 96 percent chance of the month producing more rainfall.

From a historical standpoint, this is the third driest January on record dating back to 1928. Only January 1977 and 1931 have been drier. January 1931 is the driest on record with 16.3 mm (0.64 in) and January 2006 is the wettest with 2017.7 mm (8.57 in).

Despite the trickle of rainfall for January 2021, the rainfall for the month is usually the most reliable of all months with the lowest variability index of 0.83 or moderate, for the climate period 1991-2020. All other months have a variability index of 1 to 2.37 or moderate to extreme. The variability is obtained by dividing the difference in rainfall of the 90th percentile and the 10th percentile by the median.

Notwithstanding the drier than normal January 2021, the rainfall for January remains without any significant (statistical) trend. The mean rainfall over the past seven climates has not changed significantly, ranging between 65.8 to 79.5 mm (2.59 to 3.13 in), over the period 1928 to 2020.

As we look forward, the rainfall for February is lagging average by about 38 percent, and even if the averaged is reached, there is the high likelihood for rainfall to drop to drought levels by the end of February. About another 35 mm (1.38 in) of rain is needed to stave off drought. This or more rainfall for February 17-28 has only occurred 10 times in the last 55 years – 18 percent of the time.

January is unlikely to be this dry again under the next 27 years. By then, we will be at the middle of the 21st Century – millennials would have reach senior citizen age.

Please continue to follow me for more on what looks likely to be the start of a drought and all things weather and climate via TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Also, share this blog, if you found it useful. 





The Great 1843 Mother of All Caribbean Earthquakes

8 02 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

At 10:37 am, February 8, 1843 – 178 years ago today, the mother of all Caribbean earthquakes struck the region. This is believed to be strongest of all Caribbean earthquakes, ever reported. Dubbed the “The great 1843 earthquake” by Beauducel and Feuillet of the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, it killed more than 1500 people and perhaps up to 6000, most in Guadeloupe, and caused catastrophic damage.  

Earthquake event of 8 February 1843, where black star, southeast of Antigua, indicates epicenter from Feuillard [1985]. Thick dashed lines, with roman numerals between, indicate approximate isoseists – equal earthquake intensity. Dashed areas show the approximate size of the ruptured zones estimated by using the Wells and Coppersmith [1994] relation between rupture length and magnitude. See Natalie Feuillet et al

The powerful earthquake, with an estimated magnitude of 8.5, struck the Caribbean, with epicentre between Antigua and Guadeloupe. Different sources have it centre in slightly different places, which is not unusual; however, all have it within 50 miles of the above-mentioned islands.

The monster quake is credited with the total destruction of the Guadeloupe city of  Pointe-à-Pitre. What the shaking did not demolish directly, fire sparked by it consumed the rest. Eyewitness accounts and newspaper reports painted a very dismal picture of the aftermath of this earth-shattering quake, which caused damage throughout most of the Eastern Caribbean. Here is an account of damage to Antigua, according to an 1843 report by Captain of the ship – Royal Mail Steam Packet Dee, as cited by José Grases G. 1990 and obtained from the The University of the West Indies Seismic Research Centre (UWI-SRC) website:

This island has suffered most severely, the whole of the churches and mills throughout the island being a heap of ruins. The organ in the Church of St. John’s totally destroyed; the Dockyard at  English Harbour is sunk considerably, many parts being under water, the whole of the  stone houses in a complete ruinous state, the walls partly or wholly down; the water tanks containing nearly 11,000 tons of water burst with an  awful crash; the earthquake lasted about 4 minutes. Mr. Hart, Clerk in charge of the Dockyard, English Harbour, states that 3 clocks in the  neighbourhood  stopped  at  10h:  40M:  a.m. Precise accounts had not  been received from the  interior. It is ascertained 40 lives had been lost – fears were entertained it was short of the actual loss. The Governor’s House (Dow’s  Hill) is partially destroyed with nearly all its furniture; the  Ridge Barracks much damaged; the Custom House, Court House, and Wesleyan Meeting House destroyed.”

No photo description available.
Damage from the 1974 Antigua earthquake. The 1843 earthquake was 10 times stronger. Photos by UWI-SRC

This earthquake, which ranks among the top 20 strongest ever in the world, was said to have been felt as far away as New York, USA. It was probably a megathrust earthquake – the most powerful kinds. It was up to 10 times stronger than the infamous 1974 Antigua earthquake and up to 32 times stronger than the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

It must be noted that there are conflicting estimates of the magnitude of this catastrophic event with, at least, one expert indicating that the magnitude was as low as 7.5 to 8. I am more persuaded  by the 8.5 magnitude estimate, since this appears to be the most recent finding – Natalie Feuillet et al., and also supported by, at least, two other experts. In some literature it is listed at magnitude 8.3. At any rate, it was not your garden variety earthquake by any stretch of the imagination.

According to the UWI-SRC, earthquakes are a daily reality across the Caribbean, especially the northeast Caribbean where hundreds occur annually, although most are not felt.

Over the years, the UWI-SRC has expressed concerned over the potential for an 1843 or 1974 caliber earthquake impacting the northeast Caribbean. Although earthquakes, especially large ones, are virtually unpredictable, the public should be prepared, as moderate to significant sized earthquakes may impact the region at any time. Individual, community and national measures should always be in place to mitigate the impacts of earthquakes.

For more on seismic activity in the Eastern Caribbean visit: UWI-SRC. Also please continue to follow me for all things weather and climate via TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Share this blog, if you found it useful.








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