Near Normal Rainfall for September, Drought Continues

27 10 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

September joins June as the only two months of the year, thus far, to register near normal rainfall, all others had below normal figures. The month produced 122.2 mm (4.81 in) of rainfall, the highest total for any month since December 2020; notwithstanding, drought continues through September. The rainfall for the last nine months ranks among the worst on record, and it is still unclear as to when there will be significant respite.

The rainfall for September is the second lowest since 2015. However, the total for the month was a decent 90 percent of the normal value of 136.4 mm (5.37 in), only a deficit of 10 percent.

The period July-September was also drier than usual. The total of 268.7 mm (10.58 in) was the 18th lowest on record starting 1928. The last time this period was drier was 2015 with 168.1 mm (6.62 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. Thus far, this January to September is the sixth driest on record and the driest since 2015. The first three-quarters of the year has only a meagre 473.5 mm (18.64 in), only a little over 62 percent of the usual rainfall of 759.0 mm (29.88 in). The five drier January to September are 2015, 2003, 2001, 1939 and 1930. The year is on track to be among the top 10 driest or worst, on record.  

Since the 2020 November’s deluge, the last ten months, December-September, is the seventh driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only returned 65 percent of normal rainfall.

The upcoming three months, November to January, has equal chance of below, near or above normal rainfall. Meanwhile, some of the more reliable models are still forecasting the continuation of below usual rainfall being most likely. Looking at the glass half full, near to above normal rainfall is more likely than not.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting equal chance of below, near or above normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda.

As the meteorological drought goes, so go the other droughts: agricultural, hydrological and ecological. There is the continuing concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought, if it has not already done so. However, the rainfall of September did stabilise or eased the droughts a bit.

Our conversion of sea water to fresh water has built drought resilience; however, obtaining potable water from this source is several time more expensive than from surface and underground catchments. Also, it has negative climate and environmental consequences, further adding to the overall expense of using the sea as a source for fresh water. Unfortunately, these “evils” are virtually unavoidable, for the foreseeable future.

Potworks Reservoir remains below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, according to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. Water rationing continues and with the rainfall outlook unclear, an end is unforecastable, at this time. Daily water use continues to outstrip production by about one million gallons.

Potworks Reservoir, Bethesda, Antigua, still on the verge of becoming totally dry – Oct 2, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

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