By Jenique Belgrave
Despite the heavy showers on Monday, Barbadians are being warned to brace for even drier, hotter months ahead and the possibility of a strong hurricane due to an emerging El Niño.
The island was drenched throughout the day, with the northern parishes mostly impacted. St Peter recorded about 60 millimetres of rain during the course of the morning, leading to flooding in some communities.
The Barbados Meteorological Service (BMS) said the respite from the hot conditions will be short-lived, noting that even though there will be a few showers over the next several days due to a mid-upper level trough affecting Barbados and the Windward islands, the dry conditions are expected to return.
“The upper level will not be as favourable as it is today, so we are still seeing a few showers for the next few days, but nothing like on [Monday],” said meteorologist Cherise Brathwaite.
The showers came as the UWI Global Institute for Climate Smart and Resilient Development (GICSRD) and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) issued a joint media statement about hot conditions ahead.
They said it is increasingly likely that the El Niño weather phenomenon will emerge in the next few months, which will have several implications for the current drought conditions and the upcoming hurricane season.
El Niño refers to the above-average sea-surface temperatures. The warm ocean surface warms the atmosphere, which allows moisture-rich air to rise and develop into rainstorms.
The GICSRD and CIMH warned that in addition to contributing to very hot days and nights and more heatwaves, the very warm Caribbean Sea may provide windows of opportunity for a very strong hurricane to develop, notwithstanding El Niño’s dampening effect.
“For this reason, the region can never let down its guard as it only takes one hurricane or storm to cause immense economic setbacks to an impacted country and sometimes the entire region,” the institutes warned.
In addition, the research shows that during an El Niño, the Caribbean is prone to be dry, with the 2009-2010 and 2014-2016 droughts considered two of the most severe to impact the Caribbean in recent memory having occurred during El Niño events.
“To compound the issue, the Caribbean Sea is unusually warm for this time of year. This adds to the uncertainty about if and how regional drought and the hurricane season activity will evolve this year as warm seas around the Caribbean eject more moisture and heat into the atmosphere,” GICSRD and CIMH stated.
A check with the BMS revealed similar findings, with forecast models showing that dry conditions currently affecting the island will continue to persist for several more months.
In addition, a summer with above-average temperatures, particularly in September, is also anticipated.
“The way that the projections are looking right now, there will be hotter temperatures in the summer because the sea is what usually cools us off but it is warmer now, and that means it’s also going to be a little more humid. So, at this point it is looking like it is going to be a warmer than usual summer,” said acting meteorologist Danielle Nurse.
The BMS official told Barbados TODAY that based on current projections, while the temperature will reach 34 degrees Celsius on some days, people will feel hotter in some areas, especially the City.