Drier than Usual January for Antigua

23 02 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

January 2022 was another drier than usual month for Antigua; the fourth in a row and the 10th since January 2021. The month registered just  48.3 mm (1.90 in), making it the fifth January of the last eight with below normal rainfall.

January usually clocks 67.3 mm (2.65 in) of rainfall annually (1991-2020); this means the month fell close to 28 percent below its usual total. This is an improvement over January 2021, when the deficit was close to 60 percent. Notwithstanding, it is another year with a bad start.

January’s rainfall anomaly (deviation from normal) in percentage (blue line) along with the long-term trend (grey broken line). The background is that of Potworks Dam, 3 February, 2022

The rainfall for January continues to trend negatively (downward); however, this trend is statistically insignificant. The trend is at a rate of just 0.16 mm (0.0064 in) per year or 16 mm (0.64 in) per hundred years. This also represents an insignificant rate of 0.24 percent per year or 24 percent in 100 years. No evidence of a changing climate with respect to rainfall in January.

In aggregate, the three-month period ending January is among the driest on record going back to 1928. The total of 141 mm (5.55 in) is the third lowest behind November-January of 1967/68 and 1947/48. The last four, five, six and seven-month periods ending January had record-breaking low rainfall. Further, the last year (February to January) ranks second driest, on record, with 621.5 mm (24.47 in). The record is 588 mm (23.15 in), February 2015-January 2016.

Clearly, we remain in the grips of a severe meteorological drought, which is also defined as exceptional by some other metrics. Also evident are agriculturalhydrologicalecological and socio-economic droughts, at varying intensities. Potworks Reservoir remains 100 percent empty, converted into a pasture for grazing animals. All other surface catchments are in a similar state or below extraction levels.

Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water resource manager, has just commissioned a new reverse osmosis plant to obtain more potable water from the sea. This should bring the daily total from this source to over 7 million and it should help to ease the water woes. However, the drought continues to be a very serious matter for many, who are forced to go days without potable water, as demand continues to outstrip production by hundreds of thousands of gallons.

The drier than usual start to the year was not confined to Antigua. Much of the Caribbean Basin experienced below normal rainfall with some islands or part thereof getting less than 25 percent of their usual total–75 percent rainfall deficit or more.

CMORPH 1-Month Percent of Normal Rainfall for January 2022

Drought conditions have worsened across a number of the other islands, including the rest of the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, most of the Windward Islands and Barbados. The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) has recommended drought watches or warnings for most islands of the Caribbean.

It is unclear as to when there will be any notable respite from the drought. The latest set of models surveyed suggests an equal chance of below, near or above normal rainfall for March to May for Antigua and Barbuda and much of the rest of the Caribbean.

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