As much as 20 heatwave days expected in Jamaica through to August – Met Service

Jamaicans who believed that the last two weeks of May were a harbinger of a toasty summer have had those fears confirmed as the Meteorologist Service of Jamaica is predicting at least 15 to 20 heatwave days through to the end of August 2023.

A heatwave is defined as a period of abnormally hot weather.

The last two weeks of May have been particularly hot, and many locals are bracing for temperatures to reach new sweltering heights during summer. The good news is that the phenomena of hot days during the last two weeks of May was nothing unusual or special, especially in Kingston.

"For the Sangster International Airport (SIA) climate station, only three hot days were detected during the period May 15 to 25, 2023. For the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) climate station, no hot days were detected," the Meteorologist Service of Jamaica reported.

Hot days for SIA are defined as days exceeding the maximum temperature of 33.8 degrees Celsius and for NMIA, hot days are defined as days exceeding the maximum temperature of 33.5 degrees Celsius.

"No consecutive hot days were reported. Please note however that at SIA, there were six days with maximum temperatures above 33 degrees Celsius and close to the hot day threshold of 33.8 degrees Celsius," the report said.

There was no heat wave. But such knowledge is cold comfort to many Jamaicans who are broiling the sweltering temperatures.

"The warm spell threshold of seven consecutive days above 33.5 degrees Celsius for SIA and 33.3 degrees Celsius for NMIA was also not met," the report said.

Despite a La Nina, a cooling of the equatorial Pacific that slightly reduces global average temperatures, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calculated 2022's global average temperature was 58.55 degrees (14.76 degrees Celsius), ranking sixth hottest on record.

Berkeley Earth, a nonprofit group of independent scientists, said it was the fifth warmest on record and noted that for 28 countries it was the hottest year on record, including China, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Germany, and New Zealand.

Temperatures have been going up in recent years in the island and on one particular day in June 2019, the mercury in the capital hit a sizzling 39.1 degrees Celsius - the highest temperature ever recorded in Kingston.

The Met Service is predicting higher than normal night-time temperatures for most of September to November 2023 and here's the kicker: at least 15 to 20 heatwave days expected through to the end of August 2023.

Eastern parishes are at risk of continuing or developing drought conditions by the end of November 2023, the Met Service said.

Further, there is a "high potential for flash flooding (extreme wet days) in Jamaica for the June to August period".

The Met Service said that the region is experiencing conditions typical of an El Niño and that “a transition from ENSO-neutral is expected in the next couple of months, with a greater than 90 per cent chance of El Niño persisting into the Northern Hemisphere winter”.

The development of an El Niño later in the year is likely to result in the following: a suppressed rainfall season, less favourable conditions for hurricane season activity, reduced flood potential, and of course, enhanced heat.

CLAUDE MILLS , Observer Online writer

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