Published on February 16, 2016 by CIMH/Aisha Reid
The drought conditions which have affected the region since late 2014 are expected to subside by the start of the 2016 Hurricane Season.
However, according to the latest seasonal climate forecast from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), the region should prepare for the risks of landslides and flash floods, as the rains return.
The 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.
The forecast stated that after the weakening of El Niño, its counterpart La Niña, a cooling of the Pacific, may take over and affect the region in the latter part of 2016. If this change occurs, it is likely to result in higher than normal rainfall and stronger storm systems.
The CIMH advised that while near to above average rainfall was expected to ease the drought across the Caribbean later this year, areas experiencing long-term dryness would be more susceptible to hazards such as landslides and flash floods, once rains returned in excessive amounts.
Agro-meteorologist and Chief of Applied Meteorology and Climatology at the CIMH, Adrian Trotman, explained that limited rainfall over the last few months had left many parts of the Caribbean with dry, compacted soils. “As a result, heavy rainfall will not be easily absorbed by affected soil which increases the risk of flooding,” he explained.
Mr. Trotman noted that recent advances in climate forecasting services for the Caribbean now meant that government planners and other bodies could 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 said.