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Caribbean braces for heat season; Belize at risk of drought and flooding

Drought land

Posted: Sunday, March 3, 2024. 7:39 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: The latest Caribbean Climate Outlooks publication from the Barbados-based Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) paints a concerning picture for Belize. A fading El Niño event and record-setting warmth in the Tropical North Atlantic are expected to create unusually hot conditions in the country from March to May.

CariCOF warns that Belize, along with much of the Caribbean, will see a hotter than usual heat season with a high chance of heatwaves beginning in April. Increased evaporation and shorter dry seasons could pose risks, particularly in northern Belize where long-term drought conditions have already developed. This further raises wildfire risks in drought-stricken areas.

The report also predicts a sharp increase in rainfall from April to May throughout Belize. While providing relief from dry conditions, this could create “high to extremely high potential for flooding, flash floods, cascading hazards, and associated impacts.” Exceptions are the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonnaire, and Curacao), where heavier rainfall is less likely.

According to CariCOF, as of February 1, 2024, a significant portion of Belize, specifically the northern regions, is experiencing long-term drought. By May 2024, drought conditions are likely to spread to southwest Belize. Other areas of the Caribbean facing similar struggles include Antigua, Dominica, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, St. Kitts, Suriname, Eastern Cuba, northern Guyana, Haiti, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Windward Islands.

El Niño is a climate pattern characterized by unusually warm surface waters in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean. This phenomenon often has wide-ranging impacts on global weather.

 

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