Earlier this month, the Climate Section of the National Meteorological Service Drought and Precipitation Statement forecasts “… Northern and Inland areas (can) expect Moderate drought to persist during the January-February-March season.” and “No drought is expected for the entire south and central coastal areas”.   It also forecasts Normal rainfall country wide during January to March 2013.  The Climate Section also reported that most of Belize experienced varying degrees of meteorological drought throughout most of the 2012 dry and the rainy seasons.

The statement provided the following details on drought during 2012:

1. Inland areas experienced  Severe Drought conditions  June to December;
2. In Northern areas Drought commenced in August and became severe September to November;
3. Coastal areas were under moderate drought conditions September to November;
4. The southern areas (near South Stann Creek) experienced serious to severe drought conditions during June to August; and
5. Extreme southern areas did not experience drought conditions.
The Climate Section defines Meteorological Drought as “…a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time, usually a season or more.”  Other types of drought are Hydrological, Agricultural, and Socioeconomic Droughts.

Like the small craft warnings, no one pays heed to the Meteorological Office cautions and statements, and we are surprised when there is a tragedy at sea, flood events, or there is insufficient rainfall for the dams and crops.  Maybe that Office needs to trumpet its analyses results a little louder.

The fact of the matter is that most of the time this information is available and is not incorporated in the planning processes resulting in unexpected events that can be costly.  The consequences of these events can be among others, loss of human life, damage to crops, increased water and electricity rates due to higher cost of conversion of poor quality water to potable water and lower power generation due floods and or droughts.

The Regional Project, ironically called Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change produced forecasts for the remainder of the century on Rainfall, Temperatures, and Runoff for Belize was completed around 2010.  There are other reports on the likely economic impacts of Climate Change on Tourism, Coastal Zone, Agriculture, Water Resources, etc.  The projects reports are all available, sitting on the shelves of the Climate Change Centre, the Libraries and Meteorological and Hydrological Offices.  If these reports, albeit three to five years old, were used in the economic analyses leading to the preparation of the scenarios for the operations of the dams it would have alerted the Analysts of the likelihood of the low rainfall in Belize and Mexico and the outcome may have been different. 

There is the need for the updating of these reports using new global climate analyses results to make the scenario preparations more reflective of the current and likely future situations.  Until there are new analyses and reports to replace those that exist, it behoves us to seek out these reports and to factor the information contained within into all our planning processes.  The worst that can happen is that we applied measures that we should have applied anyway and will be more costly if delayed.  These measures are called no regrets measures.

Read the Climate Section Drought Statement it may make a difference in 2013!
The reports are there, the scientists are there Use them!

Drought and Precipitation Statement

Rainfall collected from weather stations across Belize showed that north and inland areas of the country got well below normal rainfall, whiles central coastal and most of the south got normal to well above normal rainfall.  Rainfall forecast for the month of December was for normal rainfall for the entire country. These well below normal rainfall totals continue to cause the Inland areas of the country to plunge into severe meteorological drought.

Assessment of the drought conditions over  inland areas of the country, showed that that part of the country have been experiencing severe meteorological drought conditions since June-July-August and which have  progress right through to the October-November-December season. 

Drought condition in the northern parts of the country started in August-September-October season, as slight meteorological drought and reached severe drought in September-October-November season, but have lessen to slight meteorological drought in the October-November-December season.

Central coastal areas assessment showed that those areas, which experience moderate drought during September-October-November season, did not experience any drought in October-November-December season.

The south of the country is divided into two sections the northern south (Stann Creek) and the extreme south (Punta Gorda). The northern south  of the country had been experiencing serious to severe drought from the June-July-August season, but rainfall assessment for October-November-December show that some parts of  northern South did not experiencing any drought during the October-November-December season, except for the Savannah area which experiencing serious drought. The extreme south of the country is not experiencing any sort of drought.

Rainfall forecast for the month of January 2013 is projecting Normal rainfall over the entire country and seasonal forecast for January-February-March is also projecting Normal rainfall for the Belize.

ENSO conditions are expected become more neutral which usually indicated a more likely hood of normal rainfall pattern over the country. Global models are also showing normal rainfall over Belize.

Based on global models, climatological trends and subjective input, the drought conditions over Inland and Northern areas will lessen in the month of January. whiles for Northern and Inland areas expect Moderate drought to persist during the January-February-March season.

Drought is a deficiency of precipitation over an extended period of time - usually a season or more.  Drought is assessed by first examining the rainfall for each 3 month season. The data set 1981-2010 for different district stations across the country is used to determine whether the rainfall lie below the 30th percentile.

The method used to determine the rainfall deficit is an adjust version of the decile method that was developed by Gibbs and Maher (1967). The Australian Drought Watch System and some Caribbean countries also used this adjusted version of the decile as their meteorological measurement for drought. This method is chosen because it is relatively simple to calculate and requires less data.

Definitions of the drought terms:

Slight: rainfall (30th percentile to the 20th percentile)
Moderate: rainfall (20th percentile to the 10th percentile)
Serious: rainfall (10th percentile to the 5th percentile
Severe: rainfall (less than the 5th percentile).

Rainfall Description
The following definitions are being used on the 1981 to 2010 rainfall dataset:
 •Well Below normal: Rainfall totals in the lowest 10% of the dataset
 •Below Normal: Rainfall totals in the lowest 33.3% of the dataset
 •Near Normal: Rainfall totals in the middle 33.3% of the data
 •Above Normal: Rainfall totals in the highest 33.3% of the dataset
 •Well above Normal: Rainfall totals in the highest 10% of the dataset

The information contained herein is provided with the understanding that The National Meteorological Service  of Belize makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of this statement. The information may be used freely by the public with appropriate acknowledgement of its source, but shall not be modified in content and then presented as original material.
Next Drought Statement will be issued February 2013.

The Guardian