Below Normal Rainfall Expected To Continue

The period of drought, which was officially declared by the Meteorological Office in August 2009, persisted until year-end, and looks set to continue this month.

The met office said the moderate drought, which began last August, reached serious levels in November.

It also said the amount of rainfall for the July to November period was at its lowest level in 16 years, while the 3.47 inches of rainfall recorded in November was far below normal for that month in Antigua.

According to the office, notwithstanding some showers in December, the present trend and outlook suggest that drought conditions are likely to continue through February 2010.

For the present month, the weather agency noted that the country’s average total for January 2010 is likely to be only 1.5 to 1.89 inches of rain.

This amount is well below the normal January average of 2.59 inches.

An official at the Antigua Public Utilities Authority told The Daily OBSERVER Radio his department was concerned about the effect this ongoing drought could have on the country’s water supply.

Meanwhile, the met office said while there has been a marked improvement in the situation since its advisory against sea bathing last week, the sea swells which prompted the warning are still higher than normal.

Meteorologist Llewellyn Dyer told The Daily OBSERVER on Monday that people using beaches and venturing into waters along the north-east, east, and south-east of Antigua need to be especially careful.

“The swells are still running above normal,” he said. “We are not back to normal as yet.”

The height range in which sea swells are considered normal is between four and five feet, and Dyer said it would last at least until Thursday before such conditions returned.

“We have had reports from the northeast, say around Blue Waters, going around Fort James and coming to the southern side of the island. That’s the sector that appears to be most impacted by the swells,” Dyer said.

He added that children should not be allowed to go into the sea, unless accompanied by adults who are reasonably strong swimmers. Many sea bathers have reported experienced a rather strong current away from the shore.

As residents cope with warnings about rough seas, a local environmentalist said global warming is increasing the country’s vulnerability to such events.

Research Diver Ashton Williams is a board member of the Environmental Awareness Group (EAG).

Speaking with this paper on Monday, Williams said rising sea temperatures are slowly killing the coral reefs which have critical functions in reducing the coastal impact of waves and tides.

The diver said while most of the reef structures remain in place for now, it’s only a matter of time before they crumble and expose the coastline to the full force of the sea.

He added that available evidence and observations suggest that the coral bleaching – as it is known – is not caused by inland discharge of sewage, but by the sea temperature rise.

Williams also pointed out that much of the coastline’s increased vulnerability to marine perils and encroachment was the result of human alteration.

“Case in point – more so in Antigua – would be Runaway Beach,” he said. “We have done things there that have altered the course of the land, and then the waves come in and complete the damage. This mostly happens in areas we have altered.”