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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