On Tuesday we showed you the impacts of the drought on the sugar cane fields in the north. A lot of crops have been affected by the below normal rain fall in the last couple months. Today, we spoke with the National Meteorological Service to get a full picture of the scale of the drought based on their data. While we’ve experienced some rainfall in the last couple weeks, the drought outlook has been downgraded for the north in the short term but the long term outlook shows that again there may be below average rainfall going into the dry season. Here’s more with Andrea Polanco.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
Belize, particularly parts of the north experienced a below normal rain fall during what should been its rainy season. For those in the agriculture sector, this led to a drought which impacted crops. Acting Deputy Chief Meteorologist Ronald Gordon says two areas in Orange Walk and Corozal were hit hard.
Ronald Gordon, Acting Chief Meteorologist, National Met Service
“Specifically Tower Hill in Orange Walk this rainy season was the second driest in record from that station. The last one was in 1994 and this one is second driest compare to that year. In terms of Libertad, this one was the sixth driest on record. So, it was quite severe especially for the northern parts of the country.”
The National Met Service says that the accumulated rain fall from June to November was significantly lower than it should have been:
“Those totals on average should be about a thousand millimeters for those two stations and what we saw this year for Libertad was about seven hundred millimeters and Tower Hill just a bit more than that. So, both of those numbers were below what we call the thirty-three percentile which is one standard deviation from the normal but not to get too technical, that signifies for us that it was a very abnormally dry year.”
Gordon says that the below normal rainfall resulted from “el nino” activity. It’s a routine climate pattern that can be exacerbated by the bigger issue of increasing global temperatures:
“El Nino is a pattern in the pacific ocean whereby you have warmer than normal average sea surface temperatures and what that tends to do is to cause all the to occur over that side so you can imagine that these two oceans, the Atlantic and pacific are basically consuming from the same energy source but that side is getting all the energy. So, those same storms that form over there tend to create strong vertical winds that tend to disrupt thunderstorms on our side of the ocean.
When you put everything in the context of climate change, what it does is that climate changes tend to make whatever is happening more extreme. So, for us, we had an el nino situation and we compound that with the fact that we are going into a period of changes due to climate change it makes things worse or more extreme in those situations.”
Drought ranks high in terms of national weather-related economic impacts for Belize. This year alone, losses are estimated at around fifty million dollars. But apart from direct economic impacts, drought can threaten drinking water supplies, as well as ecosystems, and can even contribute to increased food prices. So, what does the met service projections say about droughts in Belize for the short and long terms?
“We have been downgrading the north in terms of the meteorological and agricultural drought because that area has been receiving some rain fall. So, in the short term the drought concern is alleviated. However, when you are looking at the different aspects such as ground water that is the water that is accumulated over a period of time, which is still a major concern for us because the rainfall we received in October has not been enough to replenish that supply of water. Then we look at the projection in the upcoming dry season it is telling us that we are going to be looking at below normal rainfall again. So, in terms of a long term drought outlook we still have a drought warning for the entire country especially for the north and central areas and a drought watch for the Toledo district. But on the short term, the only areas that have a drought watch right now is the Cayo and Stann Creek districts but the north and south we are not looking at the moment.”