The drought conditions which have affected the Caribbean region since late 2014 / early 2015 are expected to subside by the start of the 2016 Hurricane Season. But there may be a risk of landslides and flashfloods, as the rains return. This is the key warning from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in its latest seasonal climate forecast.
CIMH hosts the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF), a World Meteorological Organization-sanctioned regional network of meteorologists and users of climate information who meet bi-annually to discuss real-time seasonal forecasts, develop climate early warning systems and produce authoritative regional climate outlook products -- such as the Caribbean Drought Bulletin and the CariCOF Drought Outlook. WMO is supporting CIMH efforts to increase provision, awareness and use of climate forecasting services. These help promote socio-economic development and increase resilience to hazards in Small Island Developing States.
The latest CIMH forecast comes after many months of warmer and drier than average conditions in the Caribbean fueled by El Niño, a warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific which has implications for weather patterns around the world, including drought in many regions.
“Limited rainfall over the last few months has left many parts of the Caribbean with dry, compacted soils,” explains Adrian Trotman, Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology at CIMH. “As a result, heavy rainfall will not be easily absorbed by affected soil which increases the risk of flooding.”
Mr. Trotman says that recent advances in climate forecasting services for the Caribbean now means that government planners and other bodies can now make important decisions based on seasonal forecasts up to three to six months in advance. “We know that advanced warning of an extreme event like a hurricane can help us to be more prepared. The same now applies for longer-term climatic events and this means that the sooner we can have an early warning of changing conditions the longer time we have to prepare and be more effective at mitigating those impacts,” he says.
On February 17th CIMH hosted a press conference to discuss what the forecast means for the Caribbean, and in particular how its early climate warning information products can help the region’s six climate-sensitive sectors (agriculture, disaster management, energy, health, tourism and water) prepare for and adapt to what is expected to be a more intense wet / hurricane season.
This press conference was facilitated by BBC World presenter, Mr. David Eades, who is visiting the region as part of a WMO sponsored campaign to highlight how climate forecasting services are being used to boost business and economic opportunities and increase hazard resilience in all Small Island Developing States.
The initiative is part of efforts to roll out the Global Framework for Cliamte Services at regional and national level. It is funded by a grant from the Government of Canada and is currently being implemented by WMO, regional and national partners in the Pacific, the Caribbean, South Asia, the Arctic and Indian Ocean.
The Caribbean Regional Climate Centre (RCC) at CIMH offers several user-defined climate products and services to inform risk-based decision making in climate-sensitive sectors at the national and regional levels.
Further information on CARICOF here