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Agricultural belt of Belize facing drought for next few months

Posted: Monday, July 1, 2019. 7:56 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The region’s weather forecasters suggest that this weekend’s rainy weather may be few and far between for the next few months.

According to CMC News, the Barbados-based Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) said yesterday that drought conditions in the Caribbean will continue in several countries from July to September this year, including Belize, due in part to a weak El Niño weather pattern.

Belize’s rainy season typically extends from May to November, roughly in line with the hurricane season. However, in its latest Caribbean Climate Outlooks publication, the CIMH said that “a progressive increase in wet spells is expected throughout the region, however, possibly fewer than in most wet seasons. The spells may bring some level of drought relief, but also concern for flooding. Peak heat stress will likely be experienced between August and September, especially during heatwaves. Episodes of Saharan dust incursion are expected.”

The extreme north (Corozal and Orange Walk) and south (Stann Creek and Toledo) of Belize face severe drought; the situation is short-term in the case of the former and long-term for the latter. These areas are home to Belize’s key agricultural industries: sugar, citrus, bananas, cacao, fruits and vegetables.

The citrus industry typically resumes in August to September, while the sugar crop starts in late November to early December.

The CIMH said that in recent months, sea-surface temperature (SSTs) in the tropical Pacific maintained a weak El Niño level with SST anomalies about 0.5-1°C above average and that is expected to be maintained during the forecast period.

“… El Niño tends to tilt the odds to warmer and drier conditions with less shower activity in most parts of the Caribbean. Note, however, that an El Niño maintaining into December could lessen these impacts during the later part of the season in the north-western part of the region.”

Between October and December, indications are that drought in affected areas may lessen with favourable rains forecasted for the last three months of 2019 in the Caribbean, with Belize being wetter than usual.

 

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