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. 


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