Climate Change Played No Part in the 2013-2016 Antigua Drought

17 10 2018

Dale C. S. Destin |

A recently published paper by Herrera et al. has shown that climate change was not a factor in the 2013-2016 Antigua Drought.

The 2013-2016 drought was the worst for Antigua on record, dating back to 1928. Further, the year 2015 was the driest on record dating back to, at least, 1871 or over 145 years. It was a year without a wet season.


Water was a huge problem during 2013-2016, many households were without pipe-borne water for days, weeks and even multiple months at a time. The drought was not only meteorological but socioeconomic – the worst kind of drought. The drought is believed to have contributed to the downfall of the then government.

The drought was not limited to Antigua – it was felt all across the region and was deemed one of the worst Pan-Caribbean droughts ever.

The paper by Herrera et al. answered the million question that was raised by many back then – did climate change cause or play a part in our worst drought on record. Some, without a scintilla of evidence, did answer the question in the affirmative. But clearly, science is not what you believe, but what you can prove. And the researchers were able to definitively answer the question, with proof, that climate change neither caused or contributed to the drought.

The Herrera et al. paper titled, Exacerbation of the 2013-2016 Pan-Caribbean Drought by Anthropogenic Warning, showed that not only did climate change not play a part in the Antigua drought – it did not impact the drought across the rest of the Eastern Caribbean. Further, the vast majority of the rest of the drought across the Caribbean was not affected by climate change. The exception is Cuba and to a much lesser extent small parts of Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico.


Climate Change Contribution (%) to the Drought Severity Across the Caribbean. Hatching (Black Lines) Corresponds to Those Areas Which had a Climate Change Contribution.

Climate Change Contribution (%) to the Drought Severity Across the Caribbean. Hatchings (Black Marks) Highlight Those Areas Which had a Climate Change Contribution.

Notwithstanding the above findings, interestingly, when the Caribbean is viewed as a whole, the authors of the paper found that climate change played a 15 to 17% role in the severity of the Pan-Caribbean drought, forced, of course, mainly by Cuba.

Climate change contributed to the severity of the drought in Cuba was 32%. Without Cuba being a part of this study, the conclusion for the Caribbean, taken as a whole, would be the opposite – climate change played no role in the 2013-2016 drought.

The take-away from the paper is that while climate change had an impact on the drought in Cuba and very small parts of the rest of the Greater Antilles, the rest of the Caribbean cannot credit any part of the drought on climate change.

Although climate change had no part in the drought of 2013-2016 across much of the Caribbean, this is not to say that future drought will not be impacted. The long-term forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) out to the 2100 is for the region to get warmer and drier.

The overall forecast is for climate change to likely cause an increase in the severity and or duration of drought on a regional to global scale. The new report issued by the IPCC on October 8, 2018 offers no update to this position.

Herrera et al. findings strongly suggest that climate model projected climate change drying in the Caribbean is already underway in the larger islands. This has major implications for the many millions of people in those islands and eventually the rest of us in the smaller islands.

Climate change did not affect the drought in Antigua, but it did affect our regional neighbours – the Greater Antilles. It stands to reason that it is only a matter of time before climate change contributes to increasing the severity of droughts elsewhere in the region, including our island.

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