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

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. 


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