9th Driest July on Record for Antigua, Droughts Continue

26 08 2018

Dale C. S. Destin |

July 2018 was the ninth driest on record for Antigua dating back to 1928. The last time we had a drier July was 2015, when we recorded our driest year in, at least, 145 years.

July2018

The total rainfall for the month of 39.6 mm (1.56 in) was a meagre 39% of what normally falls – 100.3 mm (3.95 in). Hence, there was a painful 61% rainfall deficit for the month.

From_mod_to_severe_droughtThis was also the third driest July or the third driest start to the wet season since 1977. Only 2015 and 2014 Julys were drier, with 33.3 mm (1.31 in) and 19.3 mm (0.76 in) respectively, in recent times.

The last three-month period – May to July, upon which the assessment of the current intensity of the drought is based, was severely dry. In that time, only 96.3 mm (3.79 in) of rain fell. This is the fourth driest such period on record and the second driest since 1977.

Cumulatively, May, June and July normally yield 273.1 mm (10.75 in) of rain; however, a massive 65% of it did not fall. This means that we are now in a severe meteorological drought, the worst category on our scale. Other droughts are believed to be at similar severity. Recall that there are, at least, five types of droughts.

RainfallForPast24Months_July2018

Rainfall (in) for the past 2 yrs. All periods showing well below or below normal rainfall.

So, overall, we are now in a severe drought that is currently at severe intensity. Last month, it was assessed to be a serious drought that was at moderate intensity. Recall that the overall description of the drought is based on the worst intensity achieved since it started; however, over time, the intensity will fluctuate.

Potworks Dam, with a billion-gallon capacity, has been totally dry for a few months now. The vegetation of the Island continues to struggle badly – grass has ceased growing in some locations. Many fields are bare, with some having large and dangerous cracks. Some animals are said to have perished due to insufficient food and water. These are indicative of the fact that the droughts, not just meteorological, are at severe levels.

Potworks_Dam_Aug22018

Potworks Dam – August 2, 2018. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin – Humane Society

Happily, the full brunt of the droughts continues to be held at bay by the presence of the desalination plants, which are virtually the only source for potable water in the country. Notwithstanding, many impacts are starting to break through. Potable water is being rationed, places have been left without water for days to weeks, at a time, notwithstanding a schedule issued by APUA – the water authority, to provide water to everyone, at least, three times per week.

The ten-month period – October 2017 to July 2018, the duration of the drought thus far, is deemed severely dry. The total for the last ten months of 504.2 mm (19.85 in) is the third lowest on record and the lowest since 2001. The period normally gets 945.1 mm (37.21 in) – nearly twice the amount that fell.

Based on the last set of rainfall forecasts from regional and especially international sources, the news remains discouraging. Overall, below normal rainfall is likely, if not expected, for the next six months – September 2018 to February 2019. Thus, there is every reason to believe that the droughts will continue and likely worsen. The chance of the droughts ending is, at most 30% or low.

SON_Aug2018

Probabilistic Multi-Model Ensemble Forecast of Rainfall For Sep-Nov 2018

On average, our severe meteorological droughts last for around 16 months, but not continuously at severe intensity. Will this one continue for another six months? Very likely, given the climate signals.

The probability of 2018 being a drier than normal year remains high – 75%. The best forecast for rainfall amount for the year is 872 mm (34.3 in) with a 70% confidence of the amount ranging between 658 mm (25.9 in) and 1130 mm (44.5 in). Normally, we get 1206.5 mm (47.5 in) annually.

If you found this article informative, I would be very grateful if you would help it spread by emailing it to a friend, or sharing it on Twitter or Facebook.

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