Record-breaking Dry 12 Months

11 08 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

The deficit in rainfall over the last 12 months ending July was record-breaking. August  2021 to July 2022 is now the driest such period on record, in a series dating back to 1928. The rainfall total of 727.2 mm (28.63 in) broke the previous record of 731.0 mm (28.78 in) measured over a similar period – August 1973 to July 1974, nearly 50 years ago.

During the last 12-month episode of drought, the six months ending January 2022 was the driest such half-year on record with 378.7 mm (14.91 in). Further, the last quarter of 2021, October to December (OND), had a record low rainfall of 127.3 mm (5.01 in). This displaced the previous OND record of 143.0 mm (5.63 in) observed in 1983, that fateful year in which we were forced to import water from Dominica, due to severe drought.

The rainfall total for the past 12 months was down an unprecedented 37 percent. This would have been much worse, if not for near normal rainfall in July of 99.3 mm (3.91 in), which is equivalent to 101 percent of the month’s average of  98.0 mm (3.86 in). The August-July year averages 1150.7 mm (45.3 in), which is similar to the annual average.

Since the deluge of November 2020, rainfall has been as scarce as gold. The rainfall for the past 20 months – December 2020 to July 2022, is the second lowest for such a period with 1082.8 mm (42.63 in). This is even less than the annual 12-month total and represents a deficit of over 38 percent. Only the 20-month period ending July 2016 was drier. Relative to all 20-month periods on record, the last 20 months rank seventh.

Happily, the impacts of the very harsh dry conditions continue to be masked by the adaptation measure of building more and more reverse osmosis (RO) plants to extract potable water from the ocean. If not for the plants, the socio-economic situation would be quite desperate. And to say that without the RO plants the country would have to be closed, leading to mass migration, is not hyperbolic.

According to the United Nations: “Water is at the core of sustainable development and is critical for socio-economic development, energy and food production, healthy ecosystems and for human survival itself. Water is also at the heart of adaptation to climate change, serving as the crucial link between society and the environment.”

Our poster child for droughts, Potworks Reservoir, remains dry land. Recall that in addition to meteorological droughts, there are also agriculturalhydrologicalecological and socio-economic droughts, which are currently, at varying intensities.

There is likely a number of factors responsible for the dryness; however, the main one seems to be the consistent stream of dry and dusty air from the Sahara Desert.

Examination of recent models reveals that there is no sustainable end to this dry weather. At best, rainfall for the rest of the year will be near normal, which will not erase the massive, accumulated deficit.

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Record-Breaking Dry 19 Months for Antigua

13 07 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

The past 19 months is the driest such period on record for Antigua, dating back to at least 1928. Since the deluge of November 2020, December 2020 to June 2022 has yielded only a meagre 983.5 mm (38.72 in), for the island-average rainfall. This broke the record set for a similar period, December 2014 to June 2016, of 994.4 mm (39.15 in), which was also the record lowest for any consecutive 19 months.

Usually, 19 months ending June averages 1656.3 mm (65.21 in). This means that since December 2020 only 59 percent of the normal amount of rain fell. The 19-month total of 983.5 mm is less than that for 17 full years. The rainfall total for the last 19 months was less than what usually falls in 12 months – annually.

Rainfall total for Dec 2020-Jun 2022 – 983.5 mm (38.72 in) vs the normal total for the same period – 1656.3 mm (65.21 in). December 2020 to June 2022 is the driest 19 months on record.

Such an extremely low rainfall total for the last 19 months has a less than a 1 percent chance of occurring – 0.8 percent.  This translates to the dryness for December 2020 to June 2022 having a return period of 1-in-125 years, on average. It is unlikely that anyone alive has seen this kind of scant rainfall before and there is a less than 10 percent chance of a repeat in the next 13 years.

The last time we saw such dryness we were in the midst of the Great Drought of 2013-2016. At no time during that dearth of rainfall was the dryness this intense for any successive 19 months.

A lot of the dryness seems largely due to dry and dusty air from the Sahara Desert and or cooler than normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical North Atlantic Ocean. The high number of tropical cyclones in 2021 likely contributed, by steering clear of the area and pulling moisture away from the islands.

The dryness has been quite robust. Not only records were set for the last 19 months but also for the last 18, 17, 16 and 15 months respectively. It is also likely that more records will fall in the coming months.

As forecast, it was a drier than normal dry season for Antigua. The period January to June was the 20th driest in a series going back to 1928. The continued below normal rainfall means that drought continues to reign with no predictable end in sight.

With the rainfall at or near record-low levels over the past 19 months, one can appreciate the absence of virtually ALL water from surface catchments and the significant drop in groundwater. Potworks Reservoir, our billion-gallon surface catchment, has been totally dry since late October 2021. If not for water from the increasing number of reverse osmosis plants, “crapo would be smoking our pipes”, at the very least. And for those who say he is smoking our pipes, without the plants, it would be exponentially worse, in unimaginable ways.

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Updated Prediction: Below Normal Rainfall Most Likely for Antigua for 2022

31 05 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

The prediction for rainfall remains discouraging. My latest forecast continues to call for most likely below normal rainfall for Antigua. The most likely total for the year is 1080 (42.5 in), down 25 mm (1 in) from the previous forecast. There is also a 70 percent or high confidence of the rainfall total falling in the range of 590 to 1695 mm (23.2 to 66.7 in).

The main reason for the below normal rainfall forecast is the current trend of cooler than average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) across the tropical North Atlantic (TNA), which should last through summer (June-August). Cooler than normal TNA SSTs favour suppressed rainfall conditions while the opposite enhances rainfall.  

The year started out with a severe drought brought forward. This drought started in the winter of 2020/2021 and continues through the present. This May has been wetter than the last one; notwithstanding, it will end with well below normal rainfall. Year-to-date is drier than normal. Further, since the deluge of November 2020, the start of the current drought, there has been 943.1 mm (37.13 in) of rainfall, for December 2020 to May 2022. This total is so far below normal that it is the second driest such period on record.

The dry season, January to June, is on track to be drier than usual. Summer, June to August, is also likely to be drier than normal. Further, the first three quarters of this year (January to September) is likely to see deficit rainfall with a most likely total of 645 mm (25.4 in) compared to the usual amount of  759 (29.9 in). There is also a 29 percent chance of January to September having top 10 dryness.

WMO Lead Centre for Long-Range Forecast Multi-Model Ensemble is forecasting 40-50% likelihood of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda for June to August. Also, below normal rainfall is likely for much of the rest of the Caribbean.

A typical year, based on the new standard climate period 1991-2020, averages 1156.7 mm (45.54 in). The dry season averages 410 mm (16.14 in) and the wet season, July to December, averages 746.8 mm (29.40 in). The fall/autumn, September-November, accounts for 58 percent of the wet season total and 38 percent of the year’s total.

This forecast will be updated monthly around the 25th of each month until August. The next update will be issued around June 25.

Regardless of the forecast, we all need to conserve water and be as efficient with its use as much as possible. Reducing our personal water footprint will literally redound to our individual and collective socio-economic benefit. Minimising your water footprint is also good for the climate, good for our environment and good for rainfall.

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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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Near Record-Breaking Dry Year, Drought Reigns

18 01 2022

Dale C. S. Destin |

It was a near-record-breaking dry year (2021) for Antigua. The year produced a measly island-average rainfall of 600.7 mm (23.65 in), the second lowest on record behind 2015 with 574.5 mm (22.62 in). Officially, 2021 was easily the second most parched year in a series from 1928 and unofficially, since, at least, 1871.

The yellow broken line represents the rainfall anomaly trend, which indicates no significant change to wet (positive) or dry (negative) anomaly.

It was a year reigned by drought from beginning to end, and the reign is likely to go on through the upcoming months. The drought has a firm grip on the weather, being at the most intense category: severe, exceptional by some other standards. The normal annual total is 1156.7 mm (45.54 in), nearly twice the amount measured for 2021.

The rainfall deficit amounts to a whopping 556.0 mm (21.89 in) or 48 percent of the usual total for the year. This is more than the average for the first seven months of a year. Every month accrued a shortfall with the usually wettest month of the year–November, accounting for over 22 percent of the overall rainfall shortage.

This level of waterlessness for a year is extremely rare. There is only a 0.5 percent chance of the island-average being 23.65 inches or lower. This translates to the kind of dryness that has a return period of once in 200 years (1-in-200 years), on average.

Alternatively, there is less than a 10 percent chance of such harsh weather reoccurring in the next 20 years. One is, at least, twice as likely to see a hat-trick in a cricket match than experience the likes of such lacklustre annual rainfall.

268Weather accurately predicted a drier than usual year was likely. As early as May 2021, we indicated a 46 percent chance of below normal rainfall. The chance rose to 58 percent in June and peaked at 61 percent in August. There was also a peak of 19 percent for the year to rank among the top 10 driest.

The usually wettest consecutive pair of months, October-November, almost literally produced a speck in the bucket. The frequently rainiest duo was the record driest with the trivial amount of 63.8 mm (2.51 in) with each month recording less than an inch-and-a-half of rainfall for the first time, on record. Combined, the shortfall for the months accounted for 45 percent of the year’s deficit. The previous lowest for this period was 89.7 mm (3.53 in), in 1983.  

The last quarter (October-December) was also the driest on record, dating back to 1928. The total of 127.3 mm (5.01 in) shattered the previous record of 143.0 mm (5.63 in), for the last three months of the year, set in 1983. Usually, this period precipitates 397.5 mm (15.65 in), over thrice what actually fell.

It was essentially a year without a wet season (July-December). The dry season pretty much went on and on, for the whole year, resulting in a record-breaking dry wet season. The season’s total of 396.0 mm (15.59 in) retired the previous driest wet season of 1983, which accumulated 405.6 mm (15.97 in). Cumulatively, the third and fourth quarter rainfall represented just 53% of the normal amount of 746.8 mm (29.40 in). A typical dry season (January-June) averages more rainfall than occurred for the 2021 wet season.

While the island on a whole had near-record-breaking low rainfall, parts of the country actually had record dryness. Coolidge, in northeast Antigua, had a record low rainfall of 469.6 mm (18.49 in), crushing the previous record of 554.0 mm (21.81 in) set in 2015. This represents only 47 percent of the normal annual total of 1000.8 mm (39.40 in). This kind of rainfall scarcity occurs only once every 333 years, on average, or a less than 10 percent chance of occurring in the next 35 years or the next generation.

It is unclear as to what was responsible for this nearly unprecedented dryness. The usual culprit: El Niño was not only absent but his sister: La Niña, usually the rainmaker, was present, yet to little avail. The dryness may have been mainly the result of a consistent stream of dry and dusty air from the Sahara Desert along with a cooler than usually tropical North Atlantic.

There is the saying: “If rain does not fill a [water] drum, dew is not going to fill it.” Meaning, if the wet season did not end the droughts, particularly the hydrological and socioeconomic ones, how can the dry season, which we are in, do so? It can’t; hence, the sufferation from insufficient rainfall could continue through the next six months.

The last 10 years have been the driest decade for Antigua. Five of the last 10 years have had below normal rainfall with 2015 and 2021 ranking one and two, on record. Only one year (2020) has had above normal rainfall since 2011.

Other Caribbean islands are having similar challenges with rainfall or lack thereof. For example, the Henry Rohlsen Airport in St. Croix was said to be on track, in December, to record its third driest year, on record dating back 58 years. A number of other parts of the Caribbean were also on the way to record rainfall ranking among the top 10 lowest.  

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Near Record Driest November for Antigua

7 12 2021

Dale C. S. Destin|

Most Antiguans alive have never endured a November like the just ended one. The month was second driest on record, dating back to 1928. It registered a near record breaking 29.2 mm (1.15 in) of rainfall, the lowest since 25.1 mm (0.99 in) in 1947, almost 75 years ago. This very rare November rainfall event has around a 0.7 percent chance annually or once every 143 years, on average.

November usually logs 152.1 mm (5.99 in) of rainfall annually (1991-2020); this means that only a little over 19 percent of the usual total fell this year. The deficit of 81 percent is the second worst for the year, behind May with 83 percent. November is usually the wettest month of the year.

The absentee rainfall for November has virtually ensured that 2021 will be among the top eight driest, on record. Although unlikely, this year could even break the record for the driest year set by 2015, when just 574.5 mm (22.62 in) rainfall was accumulated.

Thus far, the total for 2021, through November, stood at 537.2 mm (21.15 in). Normally, this period yields 1059.2 mm (41.7 in); hence, there is close to a 50 percent shortfall of rainfall. Less than 37.3 mm (1.47 in) of rainfall for December would see the record fall. Such low annual rainfall is extremely rare. The chance of this meagre annual total is less than 0.2 percent. This translates to a 500-year event or worse, an event with a return period of once every 500 years or more, on average.

November has also virtually sealed the fate of the wet season (July-December). It is certain to be among the driest, if not the driest, on record. The current record is 405.6 mm (15.97 in) for the 1983 wet season. Thus far, July-November, the total for the 2021 wet season is 332.5 mm (13.09 in).

While it is possible that the rainfall for the wet season will be at a record low, the rainfall for the last seven months ending November was in fact record breaking. No other May-November has been drier, on record going back to, at least, 1928. The total of 405.4 mm (15.96 in), for this year, eclipsed that of 406.4 mm (16.00 in) observed in 2015.

It goes without saying that serious meteorological drought continues, and it is highly likely to get worse, in the short-term. Also evident are agriculturalhydrologicalecological and socio-economic droughts, at varying intensities. Potworks Reservoir now has ZERO drop of water. All other surface catchments are in a similar state or below extraction levels.

Potworks Reservoir with zero drop of water – December 2, 2021. Picture courtesy Karen Corbin, Humane Society

Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the countries water resource manager, informed the public yesterday that 95 percent of all potable water, being produced by the organization, is desalinated water from the sea. We were also informed that the total water production of six million gallons per day is, at least,  a million gallons below the country’s daily requirement; hence, water is being rationed.

With such lean rainfall figures and with the recent conclusion of COP26, the obvious question would be: Was this caused by anthropogenic (human induced) climate change? From my reading of the latest IPCC report and other papers, the answer is no. According to the report, there is a low confidence in the change in agricultural and ecological droughts in the Caribbean, thus far. However, the long-term projection is for an increase in the intensity and frequency of droughts, but this will not be for all regions. Unfortunately ,the Caribbean is likely to be among the regions to bear the negative changes.

Whereas climate change is unlikely to have been a factor in November’s rainfall, or lack thereof; it was noted that suppressing rainfall conditions prevailed across the area for much of the month. Strong positive velocity potential anomalies caused sinking air, which is prohibitive to cloud growth and hence rainfall. The velocity potential is associated with the Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO) with positive values being indicative of the dry portion of it.

Three-day centred average animation of daily IR and 200-hPa velocity potential anomalies (base period 1991-2020). Velocity potential anomalies are proportional to divergence with green (brown) contours corresponding to regions in which convection tends to be enhanced (suppressed).

This extreme dryness for November was not endured by Antigua only. The unusually low or near record breaking rainfall was observed across much of the Eastern Caribbean. For example, reports out of Trinidad and Tobago indicate that much of the country had its second driest November, on record.

November was the last hope for the replenishment of national surface catchments, this year. With the very disappointing rainfall, the next possible time for replenishing precipitation is May. The issue with insufficient potable water is likely to get worse before getting better.

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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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Drier than Usual August, Drought Continues

27 09 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

Like every month of the year, except June, August was drier than usual. The month yielded only 81.0 mm (3.19 in) of rainfall. With continued below normal rainfall, drought continues. The rainfall for the last eight months ranks among the worst on record and there is still not much respite in sight.

The rainfall for August is the second lowest since 2015. The total for the month represents only 71 percent of the normal value of 114.8 mm (4.52 in), a deficit of 29 percent.

The period June-August was also drier than usual. The total of 202.2 mm (7.96 in) was the 18th lowest on record starting 1928. The last time this period was drier was 2015 with 95.0 mm (3.74 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. The last eight months is the fourth driest on record and the driest since 2015. January to August produced only a meagre 351.3 mm (13.83 in), only a little above half of the usual rainfall of 622.0 mm (24.51 in). Just three years have been drier through August: 2015, 2001 and 1939.  

Since the 2020 November’s deluge, the last nine months, December-August, is the fifth driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only returned 61 percent of normal rainfall.

The upcoming three months, October to December, is likely to see further misery from lower than usual rainfall. Majority of models are forecasting the continuation of drier than normal weather. Hence, more rainfall deficits likely.

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 likely for much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean.

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. Our utilisation of the ocean for fresh water has made us drought resilient; 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.  

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 is officially into its second month and with the rainfall outlook being gloomy, it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

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

APUA water manager, Ian Lewis, told the media on August 31, that the Authority is only able to produce six million of the seven-and-a-half million gallons required to serve the country daily. There is not enough water to go around for everyone each day; hence, the rationing.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. The countries around us remain  thirsty for rainfall also. Deficit rainfall is occurring across the rest of the Leeward Islands, the northern Windward Islands, Hispaniola, Cuba and the Bahamas. And it is probable that it will worsen, over the upcoming months.

CMORPH 180-Day Total Rainfall Anomaly (mm) for the period 26 Mar to 21 Sep 2021

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Drier than Usual July, Drought Continues

27 08 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

July was drier than usual like the first five months of the year. The month yielded only 65.5 mm (2.58 in) of rainfall. Although July took over from June as being the wettest month for the current year; it barely made a dent in the ongoing droughts. July has become the only month of the year, thus far, to clock over two-and-half inches of rain. The rainfall for the last seven months ranks among the worst on record and there is not much respite in sight.

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 July is the lowest since 2018, when the country had 39.6 mm (1.56 in). The total for the month represents only 67 percent of the normal value of 98.0 mm (3.86 in), a deficit of 33 percent.

The period May-July was also drier than usual. The total of 138.4 mm (5.45 in) was the 13th driest on record starting 1928. The last time this period was drier was 2015 with 74.4 mm (2.96 in).

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record. The last seven months is the fifth driest on record and the driest since 2015. January to July produced only a meagre 270.3 mm (10.64 in), only a little above half of the usual rainfall of 500.1 mm (19.69 in). Again, just four other years have been drier through July: 2015, 2001, 1977 and 1939.

Since the 2020 November’s deluge, the last eight months, December-July, is the seventh 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 below normal rainfall.

The upcoming autumn, September to November, is likely to see us continue to suffer from a scarcity of rainfall. The majority of models are forecasting the continuation of lower-than-normal rainfall. Hence, the drought is likely to continue. Our largest catchment, Potworks Reservoir, along with others, are transitioning to 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 likely for much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean.

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 61 percent chance of below normal rainfall; this is up 11 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, this is expensive water, over seven times the cost of that from surface and ground water.  

Potworks Reservoir remain below extraction levels, along with most other surface catchments, according the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority. Water rationing has officially started and with the rainfall outlook being gloomy, it is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. The countries around us remain  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.  

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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.

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2nd Driest May on Record, Serious Drought Continues

23 06 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

We have just witnessed the second driest May, in Antigua, on record dating back to 1928. It was also the bottom 10 driest March-May and the bottom 4 driest January-May. With such significant rainfall shortage, the meteorological drought continues for Antigua, with a return to serious intensity. Much of the drought impacts are being mask; notwithstanding, the country is feeling it deep in the pocket and models indicate that this will continue for much of the upcoming three months.

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 likely for much of the Caribbean Basin.

The rainfall for May was 17.3 mm (0.68 in), the lowest since 2001, when the country had 6.4 mm (0.25 in). The total for the month was almost unimaginably low at 17 percent of the normal of 101.1 mm (3.98 in). Only eight other Mays have had less than an inch of rain. Overall, it was the 13th driest month of all 1121 on record.

The meteorological spring, March-May, was also very dry. The total of 85.3 mm (3.36 in) was the ninth lowest for the season. The last time we had a drier spring was 2015.  

We continue to witness one of the driest years on record and easily the driest since 2015. The year-to-date total is a meagre 149.1 mm (5.87 in), only 44 percent of the usual rainfall of 341.6 mm (13.45 in). The absent rainfall, 192.5 mm (7.58 in), is more than the annual average for January, February and March combined. Only three other years have had a drier start: 2015 with 140.2 mm (5.52 in); 2001 with 113.0 mm (4.45 in) and 1939 with 131.8 mm (5.19 in).

Our last wet month was November, which was floodingly wet. Since then, the last six months, December-May, is the fourth driest on record and the lowest since 2015. The period has only yielded 53 percent of normal rainfall. Our drying catchments and thirsty brownish landscape bear witness to the missing rainfall.

The upcoming season, July to September, is likely to be drier than normal. The majority of models are forecasting the continuation of deficit rainfall. Hence, the drought is likely to continue. Our largest catchment, Potworks Dam, along with others, could again revert to dry lands and shortcuts for vehicular traffic.

Based on models which correlate our sea surface temperatures, across the tropics, with our rainfall, the medium and long term continue to look brown. This dry season, January-June, is expected to be among the five driest on record. Meanwhile, the year is likely to be drier than usual with a 58 percent chance of below normal rainfall; this is up 12 percent from last month. There is a non-trivial 18 percent probability of the year’s rainfall falling in the bottom 10 percentile.

As the meteorological drought goes or worsens, so go or will 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.  

Potworks Dam is close to falling below extraction levels. With the rainfall outlook bleak, we could be out of surface water in weeks. Water rationing is imminent, if not already occurring.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing significant rainfall shortages. Much of the Eastern Caribbean remains  thirsty for rainfall. Deficit rainfall is occurring across many places, and it is probable that the it will worsen and or spread to other islands, over the upcoming months, based on recent forecasts, particularly the central Windward Islands to the Dominican Republic. For May, most of the Caribbean Basin had less that 50 percent of the usual rainfall, with some areas receiving less than ONE percent.

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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.

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Drought is Back

14 03 2021

Dale C. S. Destin |

Drought is back for Antigua. A slight meteorological drought is present as of the end of February. It is most likely to get worse over the next three months, as below normal rainfall is forecast by most models.

The rainfall for winter – December to February (DJF) 2020-2021, was 149.1 mm (5.87 in). This total is deemed below normal and beneath the drought threshold. Usually, DJF yields 225.8 mm (8.89 in) of rainfall, on average; hence, there is over a 75 mm (over 3 in) deficit or a 34 percent shortfall.

Rainfall for Antigua for the period December 2020 to February 2021. Picture in the background is Potworks Dam as of March 3, 2021 courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society.
Rainfall for DJF is well below the slight or worse drought threshold, nearly at moderate drought. Rainfall for this period for Antigua shows no significant trend (black dashed line). Excess rainfall tends to be more extreme than drought rainfall.

The month that is mainly responsible for the scarcity in precipitation is January, which got only 41 percent of the normal amount of 67.3 mm (2.65 in). The rainfall for February was also lower than usual, accounting for 73 percent of the normal amount of 50.0 mm (1.97 in). The rainfall for December was near normal.

The two-month rainfall for January-February (JF) of 63.8 mm (2.51 in) is the lowest since 2001. Thus, the very dry start to the year continues. With this JF ranking the eighth driest on record, only seven other years have had a drier start on record dating back to 1928.

It normally takes a few months for the effects of a meteorological drought to descend to a hydrological drought and cause potable water issues. However, the effects are already manifesting themselves in the lowering of water in catchments. Yesterday, the APUA Business Unit Water Manager – Ian Lewis, said on Observer Radio News that the country has about three to four months of surface water remaining, at current extraction rate.  

We were last in a drought April to October last year. This was a severe drought that was more than meteorological; it resulted in surface catchments transforming into mud patches and then to grass lands. It is unclear, at this stage, whether there will be a repeat of similar rainfall absence this year.

The dry conditions last year, resulted in water rationing and almost a 100 percent reliance on desalinated water. Ian Lewis has already indicated that the absence of notable rainfall over the coming months would usher in return of the water conservation schedule better known as water rationing.

Antigua is not alone in experiencing notable rainfall deficits in the wake of winter. Much of the Caribbean is suffering a similar fate, from a drier than usual dry season, thus far. Short and long-term droughts are evolving across a number of islands and there is the potential of several others joining this drought-list.

Rainfall anomaly (departure form average) in mm for the Caribbean, based on CMORPH data

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Drought Deepens…Relief Uncertain

9 07 2020

Dale Destin|

The paltry rainfall for the last three months for Antigua, has caused the meteorological drought to plunge from moderate to severe levels. The rainfall for April-June (AMJ) amounted to only 82.6 mm (3.25 in). This is the sixth driest AMJ on record, dating back to 1928. Further, the rainfall for AMJ represents only meagre 32 percent of the normal total of 274.6 mm (10.81 in). 

Potworks Dam in the background, going on three months, without a drop of its billion-gallon-water capacity. (“Normal” corrected for units Jul 14, 2020)

Other droughts have also tumbled with the meteotological drought, which is considered the mother of them all. These others are at moderate or worse intensity.

The rainfall for June was below normal for the third month in a row. The rainfall of 45.7 mm (1.80 in) was only 66 percent of the normal total for the month of 69.3 mm (2.73 in).

Although drier than normal, it was wetter than the last two Junes combined and more than the last two months combined. This is an indication of just how dry those months were.

Recall that we had very happy first-quarter rainfall. The first three months of the year was wetter than normal. However, since then, things have gone south. Rainfall for the year, thus far, for the dry season – Jan to June, stands at below normal.

The dry season rainfall of 320 mm (12.6 in) amounts to just 74 percent of the normal total of 434.3 mm (17.1 in). It is the driest three-month period since June-August 2018.

The woefully low rainfall since March looks to be mainly due to higher than normal pressure at the lower levels of the atmosphere. This unusual arrangement of pressure resulted in, more often than usual, sinking air, which inhibited warm rising air needed for cloud formation and rainfall.  A record amount of Saharan Dust during June would have also played a huge role in stifling rainfall.

Low level pessure anomaly across the Caribbean Basin and parts of the North Atlantic – April 1 to June 30, 2020. Higher that usual low level pressure inhibits the water cycle and hence, rainfall.
High-level Omega anomaly across the Caribbean Basin and parts of the North Atlantic – April 1 to June 30, 2020. Positive values indicate sinking motion, which is bad for rainfall.

Relief from the drought weather is becoming uncertain. The forecast for July-September (JAS) is for a 45 percent chance of above normal rainfall. This means that rainfall required to bring us out of drought is unlikely.

Looking beyond JAS, my latest forecast calls for less than 40 percent chance of above normal rainfall for the rest of the year, the wet season – July to December. This means that near or below normal rainfall is more likely than drought busting rainfall.  

Considering the whole year, 2020 will most likely be drier than usual. My latest projection is for a 50 percent chance of below normal rainfall, 30 percent chance of the usual rainfall and 20 percent chance of the year getting more than usual rainfall.

How dry it is projected to be? At this time, Antigua’s most likely rainfall for 2020 is 1026 mm (40.4 mm) with a 70 percent confidence that it will fall in the range of 760 to 1349 mm (30 to 53 in). Normally, the island gets 1207 mm (47.5 in).

Projected rainfall for Antigua in inches. There is a 20% chance of it being above normal (A 20%), 30% chance of it being near normal (N 30%) and 50% chance of it being below normal (B 50%). Background pic courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society.

The parched weather was not restricted to Antigua and Barbuda. Much of the rest of the region have been suffering the same fate. There are a few exceptions, most notably is Cuba.

May was a record dry month for Anguilla and St. Thomas. Parts of the Dominican Republic and Belize saw record low rainfall for April. Severe or worse droughts are being experienced in many islands, including Aruba, Barbados, Martinique and St. Lucia.

Rainfall anomaly across the Caribbean Basin – January 7 to July 4, 2020 based on CPC CMORPH

Large scale atmospheric and ocean conditions continue to trend in the direction that would usually cause relief across the Caribbean Basin, including Antigua and Barbuda. However, models continue to not be very enthusiastic about forecasting significant rainfall for much of the region.

The favourable conditions for rainfall for our area are: warmer than usual tropical North Atlantic and cooling of the central to eastern equatorial Pacific i.e. a developing La Nina. Once these two things happen together, we invariably get good rainfall. However, what we can’t predict beyond a week, could negate the positive conditions – Saharan Dust, the x-factor. If it does not let up, it will suppress rainfall and wipe out any optimism in the forecasts for drought-stopping rain.

From all that have been examined, the drought is unlikely to end for the foreseeable future and if it were to, it would only be temporary. This is not to say that we won’t see more rainfall in the second half of the year than the first. We will; however, it is unlikely to end the drought.

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Driest April-May for Over 80 Years

6 06 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

The combined rainfall total for April and May is near record-breaking low levels for Antigua. The total for this Apr-May: 36.8 mm (1.45 in), is the second lowest on record, dating back to 1928. Only Apr-May 1939, 81 years ago, had less rain – 27.9 mm (1.10 in).

Normally, these months would produce a combined rainfall of 189.2 mm (7.45 in). This means that the rainfall for Apr-May is less than 20% of the normal total, a deficit of over 80%.

Such low precipitation for Apr-May only happens once every 67 years, on average. In other words, there is only a 1.5% chance of this happening per year. Most Antiguans alive today have never witnessed such dryness before, for these months, and are very unlikely to witness it again.

Usually, Apr-May would account for 52% of the rainfall for Jan-May but instead it only accounted for less than 14%. Both April and May had similar extreme deficits. There have been only three other occasions when both months registered less than an inch of rain in the same year – 1973, 1939 and 1928.

It was not long ago that we were enjoying ample rainfall. First quarter rainfall, Jan-Mar, was above normal. However, this wonderful start to the year came to a screeching halt.

The horizontal (flat line) from Apr 1 to May 31 is indicative of the rapid downturn in rainfall as compared to the previous three months.

The difference in rainfall between Jan-Mar and Apr-May is the second greatest on record, indicative of the extremely sharp downturn in precipitation. We went from 237.7 mm (9.36 in) for Jan-Mar to 36.8 mm (1.45 in) for Apr-May, a decline of 200.9 mm (7.91 in). Normally, Jan-Mar and Apr-May produce 176.0 mm (6.93 in) and 189.2 mm (7.45 in) respectively.

Few of us alive today have ever seen this kind of change of rainfall, in Antigua. This kind sharp decline in rainfall from Jan-Mar to Apr-May only happens once every 100 years, on average. Only 1967 has had a greater decline, 240 mm (9.45 in), over the similar month periods.

This Apr-May is also the driest two-month period since May-Jun of 2001. It is also the 12th driest combined consecutive two months on record.

This past April and May were clearly extremely dry, and this dryness was magnified by the preceding wetter than normal first quarter.

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4th Driest May on Record for Antigua

5 06 2020

Dale C. S. Destin|

Potworks Dam, Antigua – June 1, 2020. Currently dry but when full, holds a billion gallons. Pic courtesy Karen Corbin – Humane Society

May 2020 was another very dry month for Antigua. The rainfall total of 20.8 mm (0.82 in) was the lowest since 2001 and the fourth lowest on record dating back to 1928. Only May 2001, 1939 and 1928 have been drier, with May 2001 being the driest with 6.4 mm (0.25 in).

Relative to the normal total for the month of 103.6 mm (4.08 in) only 20% fell; hence, the month had a rainfall deficit of 80%, based on the current base period of 1981-2010.

Such a low rainfall total for May is relatively rare. It happens once every 21 years, on average or has only 4-5% probability of occurring each year.

The rainfall for May is almost “bipolar” – you either get a lot or a little. This makes the rainfall for the month the most unpredictable with the highest variability index of all the months.

The dryness for May was not confined to Antigua. Most of the region from Hispaniola to Trinidad saw, at most, only 25% of the normal rainfall for the month.

The reason for the truant rainfall looks to be due mainly to higher than normal surface pressure and lower than normal relative humidity.  

Rainfall for the year has now fallen to below normal after an excellent start in the first quarter. There are some hopes for the return of seasonal or above seasonal rainfall over the upcoming months. The current forecast is for above normal rainfall for the period June to August.

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Potworks Dam Back Online!

23 12 2019

Dale C. S. Destin|

Potworks Dam, Antigua’s largest water catchment, is back online after being offline from around middle of last month, for the fourth time this year. The billion-gallon catchment water levels rose above extraction levels during the rains of late November and early December allowing for it to be reconnected to country’s water lines, to supply potable water.

Ian Lewis, Manager – Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) Water Business Unit

For the year, the Dam first fell below extraction levels back in April but was topped up in late May. It again went below extraction levels in September but was topped up later that month. And again, it fell below extraction levels around mid-November but was partially recharged late November/early December; hence the reason why it is back online.

There is now a slight meteorological drought, which started in October. Based on the latest forecasts, over the upcoming months, it is expected to persist or worsen. Prior to this drought, there was a severe drought from October 2017 to April 2019 – 19 month long.

For the month of November, the catchment area – Bethesda Village, received a little over 100 mm (over 4 in) of rainfall. This is below normal but twice the total for October – 54.9 mm (2.16 in), which is well below normal 150-175 mm (6-7 in). Already, for December, the area has had over 100 mm (over 4 in), which is more than usual.

With Potworks back above extraction levels along with other smaller catchments, water rationing has been terminated, according to the Antigua Public Utility Authority (APUA), the water authority. However, there remains a hydrological drought of, at least, moderate intensity, with no end in sight.

Potworks Dam is less than a quarter full (over three-quarters empty). It has around 200,000 million gallons compared to a capacity of a billion gallons. It has been over five years since it reached capacity; being close to empty or empty has been the norm since 2014.

Potworks Dam – December 4, 2019. Pic courtesy Karen Corbin – Antigua Humane Society

According to APUA, at the usual rate of extraction, the Dam has two to three months of water supply. This means that it will be a part of the country’s water mix until March – the heart of the dry season. Thus, there is not enough surface water to last through the dry season – January to June 2020.

Recharge of catchments is very unlikely during the dry season. This is especially so for this coming dry season, as the outlook is for below normal rainfall being most likely. Hence, Potworks is expected to come offline again by March and will likely remain offline from then until the wetter portion of the wet season – August to November.

Precipitation forecast for January-March 2020, based on 12 global models – 40 to 50% chance of below normal rainfall for Antigua and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean
The outlook shows 45% chance of below normal rainfall for Antigua and the northeast Caribbean for March to May 2020

Given the season and the forecast, a return to water rationing is almost inevitable in about three months, when Potworks Dam is expected to be offline again. Water conservation and efficiency cannot be over encouraged. Let us treat water like the scarce but precious commodity that it is and make every drop count. Think rain!

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Droughts Remain Slight, Despite Scarce April Showers

31 05 2019

Dale C. S. Destin |

Less than normal April showers fell across Antigua this year. The observed total rainfall of 42.2 mm (1.66 in), makes this April the second driest since 2006. Only 49 percent of the usual April showers fell, the rest added to our rainfall deficit; hence, droughts continue.

The last three-month period – February to April, upon which the assessment of the current intensity of the drought is based, was below normal. The period had 129.5 mm (5.10 in), while the normal amount of rainfall is 193.0 mm (7.60 in).

We remain in a severe meteorological drought, the worst category on our drought scale. However, at the moment, the current intensity remains at slight. Recall that the overall description of the drought is based on the worst intensity achieved during its lifetime; however, over time, the intensity will fluctuate. Severe intensities were observed May-July and June-August of last year.

Potworks Dam as of May 1, 2019 – drying up; picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

Potworks Dam, our billion-gallon surface catchment, has fallen below extraction levels – no potable water is currently available from the Dam. Water rationing is imminent but has been delayed by the presence of a number of desal plants operating in the country.

The nineteen-month period – October 2017 to April 2019, the duration of the drought thus far, is deemed severely dry. The total for the period of 1213.1 mm (47.76 in) is the third lowest on record, for such a period, dating back to 1928. This interval normally gets 1866.9 mm (73.5 in), which means a rainfall deficit of near 35% – over one-third of the usual rain was absent.

Based on the last set of rainfall forecasts from regional and especially international sources, the news remains discouraging for rainfall. Overall, below normal rainfall is likely for the next six months – June to November 2019. Thus, there is every reason to believe that the droughts will not only continue but reintensify. The chance of the droughts ending is, at the very most, 30% or low.

Probabilistic multi-model ensemble forecast of rainfall for June-August 2019, based on 12 global models – 70 to 80% chance of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda

Early projections have us with a 65 percent chance of being drier than normal for the year, with a 50% chance of the rainfall total being in the bottom 20th percentile of all years. Further, around 929 mm (36.6 in) of rain is forecast for 2019, with a 70% chance it falling in the range 664 to 1264 mm (26.1 to 49.8 in).

On average, our severe meteorological droughts last for around 16 months, but not continuously at severe intensity. At current, the drought is in its 19th month; the longest such drought on record lasted 38 months – Jul 2013 to August 2016.

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Temporary Interruption to Dry Weather; Droughts Eased

29 04 2019

Dale C. S. Destin |

Drought Level is Slight

A drier than normal start to the year continues across Antigua; however, there was a temporary interruption – March turned out wet, relatively. The month had 59.6 mm (2.35 in), the most for March since 2013. Most of the rain fell on the 29 March – over 52%, otherwise the story for the month would have been quite different. The rainfall for March was 15% more that usual; notwithstanding, droughts continue, although eased a bit.

The last three-month period – January to March, upon which the assessment of the current intensity of the drought is based, was below normal. The period had 127.5 mm (5.02 in), while the normal amount of rainfall is 176.0 mm (6.93 in).

Rainfall totals for the past 24 months plus normals, anomalies and records

We remain in a severe meteorological drought, the worst category on our drought scale. However, at the moment, the current intensity is slight, down from moderate. Recall that the overall description of the drought is based on the worst intensity achieved during its lifetime; however, over time, the intensity will fluctuate. Severe intensities were observed May-July and June-August of last year.

Potworks Dam, our billion-gallon surface catchment, has fallen below extraction levels – not potable water is currently available from the Dam. Water rationing is imminent but has been delayed by the presence of a number of desal plants operating in the country.  

Potworks Dam as of April 2, 2019 – drying up; picture courtesy Karen Corbin of the Humane Society

The eighteen-month period – October 2017 to March 2019, the duration of the drought thus far, is deemed severely dry. The total for the period of 1170.9 mm (46.10 in) is the fourth lowest on record, for such a period, dating back to 1928. This interval normally gets 1781.3 mm (70.13 in), which means a rainfall deficit of near 34% – close to one-third of the usual rain was absent.

Based on the last set of rainfall forecasts from regional and especially international sources, the news remains discouraging for rainfall. Overall, below normal rainfall is likely for the next six months – May to October 2019. Thus, there is every reason to believe that the droughts will not only continue but reintensify. The chance of the droughts ending is, at the very most, 30% or low.

Probabilistic multi-model ensemble forecast of rainfall for May-July 2019, based on 12 global models – 70 to 80% chance of below normal rainfall for Antigua and Barbuda

Early projections have us with a 60 chance of being drier than normal for the year, with a 45% chance of the rainfall total being in the bottom 20th percentile of all years. Further, around 977 mm (38.5 in) of rain is forecast for 2019, with a 70% chance it falling in the range 699 to 1321 mm (27.5 to 52.0 in).  

On average, our severe meteorological droughts last for around 16 months, but not continuously at severe intensity. At current, the drought is in its 19th month; the longest such drought on record lasted 38 months – Jul 2013 to August 2016.

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Drought Almost Everywhere

9 03 2019

Dale C. S. Destin |

Red is a beautiful colour but not when it is on a rainfall map. On such a map, red is bad news – it is a warning that something very unwelcome is happening – severe drought.

According to data from the Caribbean Climate Outlook Newsletter, over the past three months – November to January, rainfall deficits have resulted in severe drought across many parts of the Caribbean. This includes, parts or the whole of Barbados, Cuba, Hispaniola, St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago.  

Beyond the last three months – longer term drought is seen across Antigua and Barbuda and much of the rest of the northeast Caribbean, the Cayman Islands, parts of the Dominican Republic, northeast Guyana, much of the Windward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago.

El Nino, warmer than usual sea surface temperatures across the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, is likely to have been the main cause of the deficit in rainfall over the past six months.

Regression analysis shows that El Nino normally causes negative rainfall anomalies – below normal rainfall, cross much of the region, especially across the Eastern Caribbean during September to November (SON) and December to February (DJF).

El Nino and rainfall – It normally results in negative (-) rainfall anomalies or below normal rainfall across the Caribbean during SON. Graphic courtesy U.S. Climate Predicttion Centre.

El Nino and rainfall – It normally results in negative (-) rainfall anomalies across the Eastern Caribbean and positive anomalies across the Western Caribbean during DJF.
Graphic courtesy U.S. Climate Predicttion Centre

The Newsletter indicates that there is just a little bit of distant light at the end of the tunnel for most of the Caribbean with respect to the end of the drought. How distant is this light? Three to six months down the road for the northeast Caribbean, including Antigua and Barbuda, at which time, the forecast is for rainfall to be most likely above normal. However, this light could go dark, if El Nino continues, as is most likely from this vantage point.

Usual rainfall totals for the Caribbean for March to May

The exceptions to the rule are Cuba and Jamaica, which are most likely to have above normal rainfall during the upcoming three months.

Unfortunately, we will continue to see mostly red for the rest of the next three months with a glimmer of hope for friendly, calming colours – blues, thereafter.

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