Rainfall improves but drought continues

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Turning a tap (photo: courtesy of Mart Production)

 There was a slight rebound in Jamaica’s rainfall levels for March, but the country continues to face a meteorological drought. This is a period of well-below normal precipitation (rainfall) that spans from a few months to a few years, notes the National Water Commission (NWC).

According to news reports, “Rainfall was not as bad as it could have been, and so, we take comfort in [that] fact,” said Principal Director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Evan Thompson, at a post-Cabinet press briefing, today (April 26). Thompson outlined that for March, 88 millimeters of rainfall were expected, and the country experienced 84 millimeters. This is a significant improvement when compared to previous months, such as December when, normally, about 115 millimeters of rainfall is expected for the island, but in 2022, Jamaica received only 57 millimeters. Then in January, the expected 103 millimeters of rainfall was met with an actual 33 millimeters, or just about a third of what is normal.

“And when we looked at the data that we received for the month of February, looking at the period from October to February, we saw that this was probably, cumulatively, the lowest amount of rainfall that we had ever seen in Jamaica as far as our records indicated. So, we have been really in a severe drought situation,” The Met Office director said.

But Thompson pointed out that although the country was almost on par with what is normal for the month of March, there is still “room for concern”, and this does not mean that the drought has been broken. He explained that a drought is predicated on a period of two months, and “it will take a lot more rainfall to ensure that we break the drought pattern, because we have to look over a period of eight weeks before we make a determination of whether we are still experiencing drought”.

Furthermore, the onset of the duration of a meteorological drought is determined by comparing the average rainfall over that two-month period with the 30-year historical norms for the country and for each parish. The country would not be considered as experiencing a drought if there is more than 60 per cent of normal rainfall. However, if rainfall goes below 60 per cent, it would be determined that the country is experiencing normal drought conditions. A severe drought takes place when rainfall is under 20 per cent of the norm.

With these classifications, several parishes are still experiencing normal drought conditions, with Portland being the only parish not experiencing a drought at all. This is because the northeastern end of the island is usually the wettest.

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