Wettest Month of the Year, Serious Drought Continues

21 07 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

June has become the only month of the year, thus far, to clock over two inches of rain. This makes it esaily the wettest month of the year, to date; notwithstanding, serious meteorological drought continues for Antigua. The rainfall for the last six months rank among the worst on record. Despite the prayers for rainfall, the heavens look set to provide only sparing amounts, over the upcoming months.

Potworks Reservoir, Bethesda, Antigua, on the verge of becoming totally dry – July 7, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

The rainfall for June was 55.6 mm (2.19 in), the highest for the month since 2017, when the country had 84.8 mm (3.34 in). Notwithstanding, despite being the only month thus far with more than two inches of rain, relatively, June had near normal rainfall with the amount being below the month’s average of 68.1 mm (2.68 in).

Despite being the wettest month, so far, June continues to be the only month that is deemed to have a statistically significant drying trend, i.e. June has gotten drier over the years. The month went from a peak average of 98.6 mm (3.88 in) over 1931-1960 to a minimum of 55.6 mm (2.19 in) over 1971-2000, rebounding to 68.1 mm (2.68 in) over the last 30 years, 1991-2020.

The period April-June was very dry. The total of 111.8 mm (4.40 in) was the fourth driest since independence, 1981, and the eleventh lowest rainfall received for April-June, on record dating back to 1928. Interestingly, April-June 2020 was drier with 78.7 mm (3.10 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. The just ended dry season, January-June, is the fifth driest on record and the driest since 2015. The last six months yielded only a paltry 204.7 mm (8.06 in), only half of the usual rainfall of 410.0 mm (16.14 in). Just four other years have had a drier first half: 2015, 2001, 1977 and 1939. The record driest dry season is held by 2001 with 130.0 mm (5.12 in).

Our last wet month was November. It flooded severely across parts of the islands; however, the beneficial rainfall is becoming a distant memory, as indicated by our drying and empty catchments. Since November, the last seven months, December-June, was the sixth driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only yielded 58 percent of normal rainfall. Our starving landscape and parched grounds continue to bear witness to the absent rainfall.

The upcoming season, August to October, is likely to see us continuing to suffer from a dearth of rainfall. The majority of models are forecasting the continuation of scarce rainfall. Hence, the drought is likely to continue. Our largest catchment, Potworks Reservoir, along with others, are trending toward becoming dry land, again.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 50-60% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda. Also, below normal rainfall is most likely for much of the northern islands.

Based on models which correlate our sea surface temperatures, across the tropics, with our rainfall, the medium and long term continue to look brown. The year will most likely remain drier than usual with a 50 percent chance of below normal rainfall; this is down 8 percent from last month.

As the meteorological drought goes, so go the other droughts: agricultural, hydrological and ecological. There is also the growing concern that this may precipitate a socio-economic drought, if it has not already done so. Our utilisation of the ocean around us for fresh water has made us resilient; however, at a very high cost, as potable water from this source cost at least seven times that from surface and ground water, I am told.  

In the last month, Potworks Reservoir fell below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, except for Donnings Reservoir, according the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. With the rainfall outlook bleak, we could be out of all surface water in weeks. Water rationing is imminent, if not already occurring.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. The countries around us remains  thirsty for rainfall. Deficit rainfall is occurring across the rest of the Leeward Islands, and it is probable that it will worsen, over the upcoming months before improving, 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. 

How dry has this September been?

19 09 2012

By Dale C. S. Destin

Antigua is currently experiencing a meteorological drought, which started in February of this year. Notwithstanding the active hurricane season, so far, September has been especially dry. The first half of the month only yielded 1.3 mm / 0.05 inch of rainfall at the V. C. Bird International Airport. This tied with September of 1986 for the lowest total at the Airport on record (1971-2012). Below normal rainfall was anticipated for the month so this does not come as a surprise. This sort of rainfall is consistent with a warm Pacific Ocean (El Nino) and a lukewarm/cold tropical north Atlantic (TNA) Ocean. The lowest total rainfall for the month of September on record at the Airport is 27.2 mm or 1.07 inches (1978, at the start of a strong El Nino and cold TNA), while the highest is 410.2mm or 16.15 inches (1995, during a moderate La Nina Episode and warm TNA). Thus, based on record, there has never been a sub-inch total for the month; only two other month has never experienced sub-inch rainfall – August and December. However, at the current rate, and based of the outlook, sub-inch rainfall is quite possible and would obviously make it a record dry September. Further, it would make the drought become severe.

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