Region warned to expect increased heat stress over next three months

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) - The Barbados-based Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) is predicting that over the next three months the Pacific will very likely transition into El Niño while ocean temperatures in and around the Caribbean are expected to be well above-average.

El Niño refers to a warming of the ocean surface, or above-average sea surface temperatures, in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.

“These two factors will steadily amplify heat stress by increasing temperatures, humidity and heatwave frequency. However, El Niño and an unusually warm Atlantic have opposing effects on rainfall totals and extremes, as well as hurricane season activity,” CariCOF said in its latest bulletin that coincides with the start of the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The Hurricane season began on Thursday, June 1 and ends in November.

“Until we know which of these two drivers will dominate, we can expect little concern for drought by August. Nonetheless, the potential for flooding, flash floods and cascading hazards will increase from moderate to high by August,” CariCOF said, adding that frequent episodes of Saharan dust intrusions into the region are expected during the period June to August.

CariCOF also went on to highlight that out of the 92 days in the period June to August, there are about 30 to 45 wet days in relatively flat areas of Belize and Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (ABC Iislands), but 50 to 65 in mountainous areas and in the coastal Guianas.

It said that the three months may be drier than usual in The ABC islands, The Bahamas, Barbados, Cayman Island, Trinidad and Tobago, the western Guianas, and the Windward Islands and at least as wet as usual across Cuba, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the USVI.

“A larger number of wet days than usual may be expected across most of the region except in Aruba, Belize, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago where slightly fewer wet days than usual are expected.”

CariCOF said that the implications for the weather pattern during the next three months will include frequency of outdoor activity disruptions due to rainfall should be increasing, warning that “increasing surface wetness could make environmental conditions more conducive to moisture related pests but, at the same time, largely prevent wildfires.”

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