In its most recent publication of the Caribbean Climate Outlooks, the Barbados-based Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) has indicated that ocean temperatures are expected to remain significantly above average over the next three months. This ongoing situation is set to exacerbate heat stress across the Caribbean region.
CariCOF’s report, covering the period from September to November, underscores that both Pacific and Atlantic Ocean temperatures are projected to remain well above their typical levels. This sustained warmth is anticipated to intensify heat stress in the Caribbean, leading to higher temperatures, increased humidity, and a greater frequency of heat waves. This pattern could rival some of the historically warm seasons recorded in the past.
The influence of a moderate to strong El Niño, characterized by the abnormal warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean’s surface waters, is expected to impact weather conditions. The forecast indicates that Belize and neighbouring islands might experience decreased rainfall frequency and reduced tropical cyclone intensity. This could result in more short-term dry spells than usual for these regions.
Conversely, the record-breaking warmth of the Atlantic waters is likely to heighten the intensity of rainfall, raising the potential for flooding and related hazards. While limited drought concern is expected due to the increased showers, the risk of flooding, flash floods, and cascading hazards is deemed to be notably elevated, particularly across much of the islands.
The situation varies across the Caribbean. The Guianas are set to experience an intense hot and dry season, while regions like Barbados, Belize, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Windward Islands may record usual or reduced rainfall amounts.
CariCOF’s report also highlights emerging concerns regarding long-term drought in specific areas. Central Belize, Dominica, and southern French Guiana are already experiencing the evolution of prolonged drought conditions. Additionally, Martinique, St. Vincent, and Trinidad and Tobago might also face the possibility of developing or continuing droughts by the end of November.
As the climate patterns in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans continue to interact, the Caribbean region is grappling with a complex blend of heat stress and variable rainfall trends. These factors collectively shape the weather outlook and underscore the importance of adaptive strategies to mitigate potential impacts.