Climate caution

The Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) is cautioning that 2024 is shaping up to be a year of climate extremes for the region.

Climatologist at the CIMH, Dr Cédric Van Meerbeeck, advised that the return of La Niña, coupled with persistently warm Atlantic Ocean temperatures, are two of three main factors poised to influence weather patterns.

He warned that this combination could intensify hurricane season activity and increase the potential for flooding.

“Understanding the dynamics of El Niño/La Niña, Atlantic Ocean temperatures and intrusions of Saharan air is crucial in predicting climate extremes. The frequency of Saharan dust intrusions, though less predictable, plays a pivotal role in shaping expected weather patterns in coming months,” Van Meerbeeck said in a release to coincide with the opening ceremony of a regional workshop on National Framework for Climate Services in the Caribbean at Accra Beach Hotel on Wednesday.

“Infrequent intrusions create conditions ripe for extreme rainfall and tropical cyclone development, while frequent intrusions result in hotter but drier weather, which amplify heat-related hazards. Either way, 2024 promises to be a year with excessive heat and associated heat discomfort,” he said.

 Reflecting on historical events, Van Meerbeeck drew parallels to 2010, a year marked by devastating droughts abruptly followed by record-breaking rainfall and an active hurricane season.

He also highlighted the escalating threat of heat-related hazards, as evidenced by recent record-warm years in the region.

“The potential scenarios for 2024 range from extremely hot and wet to record hot, but initially drier conditions, each posing unique challenges to key climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and food security, water, and health,” explained Van Meerbeeck.

Principal of the CIMH, Dr David Farrell acknowledged the critical link between actionable climate information and early warning services. He explained that “proactive measures are vital for mitigating the impacts of extreme weather events on national economies.”

Farrell also underscored the CIMH’s commitment to enhancing regional resilience, noting that the Institute has strategically expanded its services to include sharper focus on water, marine systems, geological systems, earth observation and climate, to support and to advance early warning information services.

He emphasised that by empowering experts to analyse and interpret climatological data effectively, the CIMH and National Hydrometeorological Services (NHMS) would be able to provide actionable insights tailored to the needs of Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to foster resilience and enhance sustainable development.

It was noted that in the coming months, the outlook for 2024 might change due to shifts in predicted climate patterns. To keep stakeholders informed, the CIMH and NHMSS through the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum, would provide monthly updates on any changes to the outlook for 2024.

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