Cédric Van Meerbeeck, climatologist at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology. (CMC photo)

By Kenton X. Chance

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC — After a disastrous hurricane season, Caribbean forecasters have good news for the upcoming dry season, which begins on Friday, Dec. 1.

“We are happy to announce for once that the climate outlook is positive mostly and so we just want to make sure that the people keep updating themselves with the weather because heavy rains can fall in December and in The Guianas also in January and the Christmas Floods of 2013 have shown that being caught off-guard is not a good idea, so please keep monitoring the weather,” Cédric Van Meerbeeck, climatologist at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).

“We will be back with updates on climate every month. So check in with the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology or your local met service if you want to know more about climate,” he said at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) now underway here.

“After a disastrous hurricane season for especially the northern islands of the Lesser Antilles and for Puerto Rico, they are really wondering what is going to happen in the next three to six months. And I am very happy to say that it is mostly good news,” he said.

He said that most countries got enough rain in the hurricane season and, therefore, there will not be any drought or severe dryness in the dry season which would impact bushfires, agriculture, and water availability.

“So that is the best news we can have right now,” he said at the two-day event.

Van Meerbeeck told CMC that another piece of good news is that temperatures would be “cool enough.

“So we would not be impacted severely by heat stress in the coming three months. After that, the temperature will again warm up toward the summer months. But, for now, we will be cool and that’s a good relief.”

Bringing more good news, Van Meerbeeck said that The Guianas, which are currently in the wet season in their coastal areas, will get reliable rains which are also important for agricultural output.

He said this is especially important for Guyana, where agriculture plays such an important role in the economy.

Van Meerbeeck told CMC that Haiti was again impacted by the climate, this time suffering a drought and severe heat waves.

“They have been suffering record temperatures since April up until October and we hope now, with the cool season, they will return now to a normal situation but of course, once you have been impacted, just like those that have been impacted by the hurricanes, a little stress is to deteriorate the situation.”

He said that the dry season would be wetter and cooler than normal, except in the Bahamas and Cuba.

“The importance of this is that once you don’t have too much dryness occurring because you have less dry spells, you have a few more rainy days, then you keep your soil moist a bit longer and whatever water you have been storing in the wet season will also be available for longer during the dry season,” the climatologist said.

“So if there is reduced water availability, which is typical in the dry season, this time it will happen a bit later and once the rains come back, probably we will not see a water crisis, at least from the rainfall side of things. Distribution is another question, but we don’t expect climate to be a major negative role player for the coming months,” Van Meerbeeck added.

He said that when he talks about cooler temperatures, it is not much of a difference compared to the long-term averages.

“So if you look historically back into the 70s and the 80s and you draw a line right to the present, it might be like half a degree cooler than usual.

“… except maybe for a few cold nights, we are really not going to be too cold or anything. It’s just slightly cooler, which mean we are more at ease in temperatures that we’ll meet outside.”

Regarding the situation in the Leeward Islands, where there has been extended dry spells over the past few years, Van Meerbeeck told CMC that he is not a hydrologist and has not been monitoring the water reservoirs specifically.

“But, all other factors being equal, the ample rainfall that has fallen in the wet season has probably contributed in some way to reducing water stress in terms of reduced availability of water, but I can’t go into the detail with regards to water availability for households or particular countries.”