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

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. 





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.

Please follow or continue to follow me for hurricane history and all things weather and climate via TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Also, share this blog, if you found it useful.

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!

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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

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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!

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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.

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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.





High Surf Events This Week

27 01 2021

Dale C. S. Destin|

Much higher than usual surfs are expected to pound the shorelines of much of the Eastern Caribbean. One episode is getting underway and will last for 24 to 36 hours. A second episode will occur over the weekend. These surfs are expected to cause the threat level to rise to high for life, livelihood, property and infrastructure of those using or living on the affected coastlines and there is the potential for extensive impacts.

Past Surf Event - James Beach
Fort James Beach, Antigua, During a Past High Surf Event

Based on the expected swells, which will transition to surfs when they reach near shore, surfs over 3 metres (10 feet) are projected to take place at times. Advisories and warnings are expected for a number of islands.

The first hazardous surf event is likely to subside by Friday for most areas but rise again over the weekend. The second episode of dangerous surfs will start across the Bahamas on Friday and reach the Eastern Caribbean by Saturday.

It is the surf season, when powerful winter storms come off North America, often packing the equivalent of tropical cyclone winds, sometimes reaching winds equal to hurricane strength. These systems frequently track across the “pond” from the United states to Europe, all the while pushing large swells toward the Caribbean and elsewhere, resulting in hazardous conditions along mainly north and east-facing coastlines of the islands.

5-day plot - Swell Height at 41044
High Swells Heading for the Eastern Caribbean to Become High Surfs or Breaking Waves Near Shorelines

The coming high surf events will be due to a series of winter storms. The one that will cause the surf episode over the weekend will be a storm, whose pressure drop by 24 millibar or more in 24-hours. Such winter storm systems are called bomb-cyclones.

There is no strong wind concern for any of the islands. The concern is for mainly Atlantic coastlines for especially the Northeast Caribbean – from Puerto Rico to the northern Windward Islands.

Potential impacts include but not limited to:

  • loss of life;
  • injuries to beachgoers;
  • salt-water intrusion and disruptions to potable water from desalination
  • disruptions to marine recreation and businesses;
  • beach erosion and
  • sea water splashing onto low lying coastal roads.

All should be very wary about bathing in the impacted areas. Personally, although I can swim, I do not plan to go to the beach during the times the surfs are expected to be higher than usual. Going rock fishing is not advisable.

The concern is not only for high surfs, but also rip currents. Rip currents are powerful channels of water flowing quickly away from shore, which occur most often at low spots or breaks in the sandbar and near structures such as groins, jetties and piers. High surf events make for very conducive conditions for rip currents.

If caught in a rip current, relax and float. Don’t swim against the current. If able, swim in a direction following the shoreline. If unable to escape, face the shore and call or wave for help.

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Extreme Winds and Seas to Usher in the New Year

28 12 2020

Dale C. S. Destin |

Extreme wind and marine events are forecast for this week across the northeast Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda. The howling wind event will take place Thursday – NEW YEAR’S EVE, through Saturday – January 2, whereas the life-threatening marine event will take place New Year’s Eve night through Sunday – January 3. Warnings and advisories for strong winds, rough seas and high surfs will be required for most islands.

Northeast Caribbean: Estimated max 3-second gusts; max sustained 10-minute winds; average of the top 10% of significant wave heights and average of top 10% of swells

The angry winds and seas could cause notable socio-economic impacts to the islands. Similar actions by nature, earlier this year, caused ships to turn away from Antigua and Barbuda and cancelled ferry services. There were also reports of LIAT aborting landings in some islands; banana trees being downed in some countries and power outage in some areas.

The kick-off of these unwelcome but not unusual events is expected on Thursday. The pressure gradient will rapidly and significantly steepen, which will become evident by the closeness of the isobars – lines of equal pressure, on our weather maps. The closer the isobars, the steeper the pressure gradient, the stronger the winds and vice versa.

Gale-force gusts, the equivalent to tropical storm-force gusts, are likely – gusts exceeding 78 km/h (over 48 mph). Otherwise, the winds will frequently be above 40 km/h (over 25 mph). The maximum sustained 10-minute wind speeds will likely reach around 50 km/h (31 mph), whereas the maximum sustained 1-minute winds will reach around 56 km/h (35 mph). The strongest winds are forecast for New Year’s Day, especially across open waters, windward coastal areas and elevated places. The prevailing wind direction will be northeast.

Visualization of wind gusts (shaded) wind direction (short solid lines) and isobars (long solid lines with numbers – pressure in millibars) – December 31 2020 to January 4 2021

As the winds go, so go the seas. The tumultuous winds will cause the seas to rise and become extremely threatening – very rough in open waters on Thursday through Sunday. Significant wave heights could peak at or above 4 metres (over 13 feet), locally exceeding 5 metres (near 17 feet). The highest seas are also expected on New Year’s Day. These seas will be non-navigational for small craft and even some non-small-craft operators.

Significant wave heights according to the ECMWF WAM Model – December 31 2020 to January 5 2021

High swells and surfs (breaking waves) are also forecast for Sunday. Swells in excess of 2.5 metres (over 8 feet) and surfs in excess of 3 metres (over 10 feet) are likely. These breaking waves will make for very dangerous conditions for beachgoers and others using the coastlines.

The events will make for a high threat to the life and livelihood and property and infrastructure of mariners and users of the nearshore areas. There is also the potential for extensive impacts including the following:

  • Loss of life
  • Injuries
  • Damage or loss of boats and fishing equipment
  • Saltwater intrusion and disruptions to potable water from desalination
  • Coastal flooding from sea water splashing onto low lying coastal roads
  • Sea search and rescue disruptions
  • Cancellations to transportation (especially by sea)
  • Scarcity of sea food
  • Disruption or cancellation to sporting and recreation events (especially marine activities)
  • Businesses and economic losses

To be safe, mariners should stay in or near port and beachgoers should stay out of the waters for affected coastlines. Also, residents should secure light and loose objects, which can be blown away, and caution should be taken when driving. The anticipated blustery winds could make some outdoor activities uncomfortable, if not outright dangerous. These winds can also create dangerous fallen or blowing objects.

The turbulent winds will unsettle the atmosphere, resulting in brief heavy showers. However, rainfall accumulations will only be of minimal concern, at most.

These events will affect virtually the entire Caribbean Basin, at different times. They will start across the Bahamas and the Western Caribbean on Tuesday and reach the northeast Caribbean on Thursday. Then, they will spread across the southern Caribbean by Friday – New Year’s Day. The extreme events will come to an end by Sunday, January 3, 2021, although seas will likely still be hazardous for some areas, beyond Sunday.

At times, it may feel like there is a tropical storm in the area, but I can ashore you that there is none. The hurricane season remains over.

Check and monitor your local forecasts, from your national weather service, for details specific to your location. This is a relatively broad scale view; hence, the numbers WILL change either way.

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Post-Hurricane Season – December

19 12 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

Named tropical cyclones (tropical storms or hurricanes) during December are virtually unheard of for Antigua and Barbuda. However, in 2007, Tropical Storm Olga came close and affected us. Its centre passed around 39 and 78 miles north of Barbuda and Antigua respectively – at least brushing our islands. Its impact was minimal.

Tropical Storm Olga – December 11, 2007. Credit Wikipedia.

Olga went on to become the most destructive and deadly tropical cyclone originating in December. The storm went on to made landfall on Puerto Rico and Hispaniola with peak sustained winds of 95 km/h (60 mph). It killed at least 40 people and caused US$45 million in damage across the Greater Antilles.

In the history of Atlantic named tropical cyclones, which dates back to 1851, only 16 have had their origin in December, according to NOAA. Of the 16, 5 (31 percent) were hurricanes.

All 16 tropical storms and hurricanes originating in December – 1851 to 2019

Of the 16 total December tropical storms and hurricanes, four impacted the Caribbean i.e. passing within 120 miles of the region. The last to do so was Olga. Based on the climate period 1981-2010, the chance of a storm impacting Antigua is about 3 percent, while the chance of the Caribbean being impacted is about 9.5 percent.

The strongest tropical cyclone owing its origin to December is Alice of 1954 – a Category 1 hurricane. Alice formed in late December and crossed over to January 1955 and impacted Antigua and the rest of the Leeward Islands with Category 1 winds. It eventually reached peak sustained winds of 150 km/h (90 mph) about 100-130 miles northeast of Barbuda. Alice is known to be the only post-season hurricane (forming in December, January or February) to impact the Caribbean.

The last Atlantic storm to have its origin in December is an unnamed subtropical storm of 2013. It formed over the northern eastern Atlantic, near the Azores. It had peak sustained winds of 85 km/h (50 mph). Lost of life and damage caused by it were nil.

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November 2020 Hurricane Summary

9 12 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

The hurricane season saved the worst for last. November, the last month of the official season, produced the strongest Atlantic hurricane for the year – Category 5 Hurricane Iota, with peak winds of 260 km/h (160 mph).

Category 5 Hurricane Iota making landfall on Nicaragua – 17 Nov 2020

Iota devastated Central America, particularly Honduras and Nicaragua, killing 61 and causing at least US$564 million in damage. However, long before Iota was Iota, her precursor – Tropical Disturbance AL98, was quite destructive to Antigua. It dumped over 373 mm (over 14 in) of rain in 24-hours across parts of mainly western Antigua. This Lenny-type-rainfall caused massive flooding, resulting in inevitable damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Iota not only became the only Category 5 hurricane for the season, but also the first Category 5 hurricane to have its origin in November. The 1932 Cuba hurricane, also known as the Hurricane of Santa Cruz del Sur or the 1932 Camagüey hurricane, became a Category 5 hurricane in November but has its origin in October, unlike Iota.

Iota’s late rise to Category 5 status also keeps the undesirable record streak of seasons going, with at least one such maximum category hurricane. The streak is at five seasons, dating back to 2016.

Tropical Storm Theta was the other named tropical cyclone to have its origin in November. It had peak winds of 110 km/h (70 mph) and minimal impact to the Canary Islands and Madeira.

Eta had its origin in October but developed into a Category 4 hurricane in November and impacted Nicaragua, less than two weeks ahead of Iota. This November tied with November 2005, 2001, 1961 and 1931 for the most storms named in the month.

With the formation of Iota, we were nine deep into the Greek Alphabet – the back up list for naming storms. Notwithstanding, Antigua and Barbuda and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean remained hurricane-free right through the season and was happy to see the back of November.

The hurricane season officially ended November 30, with a record 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes and 6 major hurricanes. Only 2005 is close with 28 named storms, a record that most never thought would ever be broken.  

Recall that an average season produces 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes, Thus, this season produced 250 percent of the average number of named storms, 217 percent of the average number of hurricane and 200 percent of the average number of major hurricanes.

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Record-breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Ends

1 12 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

Five tropical cyclones present in the Atlantic – September 14, 2020

The busiest Atlantic hurricane season ever ended last night. The season produced a record-breaking 30 named storms. It also produced 13 hurricanes, the second highest on record dating back to 1851. Further, there were six major hurricanes, Category 3 and over, which tied for the second highest on record. The record season took over 400 lives and caused over US$41 billion in damage.

Only once before a season exceeded 20 named storms – 2005 with 28 named storms, which is the record eclipsed by 2020. However, 2020 remains second to 2005 with respect to the number of hurricanes – 15, and the number of major hurricanes – 7. Six other seasons have a similar total of major hurricanes as 2020 – 2017, 2004, 1950 1996, 1933 and 1926. An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Ranking of the 2020 hurricane season based on number of named storms, hurricanes, major hurricanes and ACE, compared to the records

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 is the internationally accepted metric used to categorise 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, 2020 is the 13th most active hurricane season on record, with an ACE index of 180. The most active hurricane season on record remains 1933, with an ACE of 259, 44% more than 2020.

Based on NOAA’s classification, the 2020 season was extremely active or hyperactive. However, NOAA’s classification of season has its challenges, allowing for one season to simultaneously have two classifications. A better approach is to classify seasons strictly by the ACE index. This approach would make the 2020 season and above normal season but NOT well above normal or hyperactive, according to 268Weather’s classification. It fell short by seven ACE needed to take it to 187 – 268Weather’s current threshold for a hyperactive season.

268Weather’s seasonal hurricane forecasts accurately predicted a very high likelihood of an above-normal or active season. 268Weather is proud to be among the few to have gotten the forecast right from very early – April. 268Weather was the only entity to forecast over 28 names storms, up to 32 were predicted and 30 formed.

Animated satellite imagery of the named storms that occurred during the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season – May 13 through November 18. Credit: NOAA Satellites

It was a relentless hurricane season. It kept forecasters on their toes continuously. There was an average of 4-5 tropical storms per month since June with one forming about every week. Thankfully, we were not significantly impacted by any of the season’s two-and-half dozen named storms, over a dozen hurricanes and half dozen major hurricanes. Also, the Eastern Caribbean virtually got away “scot free” from significant impacts.

The 2020 season got off to an early start with Arthur on 16 May and Bertha 27 May. From May to July, there was a record nine storms. This is more storms than 80 of the previous 169 seasons, including 2014, 1997 and every season from 1991 to 1994. By September 18, the 21-name Atlantic list was exhausted when Tropical Storm Wilfred formed. Thus, the season “went Greek” i.e. the backup Greek List was turned to for names for the remainder of the season. To date, we are 9 names deep into the list with Iota being the last and the most powerful Atlantic hurricane for the year.

The Atlantic has done a 5-peat – produced five active/above normal seasons in a row. This is the longest such streak, on record. Further, it’s the most active hurricane season since 2017 and the second most active since 2005. Eighteen of the last 26 hurricane seasons, dating back to 1995, were above normal.

The reason for the large percentage of active hurricane seasons since 1995 is due to the positive or warm phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). Positive phases of the AMO are strongly linked to active eras of Atlantic hurricane seasons, which historically last for about 20 to 40 years.

Like other active years, this year’s activity is owed to an interrelated set of oceanic and atmospheric conditions linked to the warm AMO, such as warmer-than-usual North Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and cooler-than-normal middle to eastern equatorial Pacific SSTs i.e. La Nina. These conditions which are also associated with weak wind shear caused the record-breaking, extremely active hurricane season.

Other notable records set by the 2020 season include the following:

  • Twenty-seven tropical storms broke the record for the earliest formation by number
  • A record 10 tropical cyclones rapidly intensified, tying 1995
  • This season is the record sixth consecutive year with pre-season named tropical cyclones
  • A record 10 tropical cyclones were named in September with 9 having their origin in the month, the most for any month
  • Iota became the only Category 5 hurricane to have its origin in November and the latest on record

For more details on the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, our monthly summaries: May, June, July, August, September, October and November (coming soon).

This season has officially ended, but it is possible, although not probable, for additional storms to develop. Stay vigilant and make sure your family is prepared for all hazards, especially those related to weather and climate. The 2021 hurricane season will officially begin June 1 and 268Weather will issue monthly forecasts starting early April.








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