Sunday, June 21, 2015

One Size Fits None: Drought forecasting in the Caribbean

A summary of the first-ever dry season Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum

By Elisabeth Gawthrop

Most extreme climate and weather events involve an unwanted surplus — too much rain, too much wind or too much snow and ice. Drought is a little different: it’s the absence of something. It takes time for a drought to build, making it fundamentally different to monitor or forecast than many climate and weather events. In the Caribbean, much of the interaction between forecasters and decision makers has revolved around the wet season events— especially hurricanes and floods. These short, high impact events deserve this attention, but scientists and decision makers have also started working together to develop useful information about other kinds of climate impacts, namely drought.

In an effort to improve drought forecasts and their use by stakeholders, the first dry season Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF) took place in St. John’s, Antigua in December 2014. CariCOF is one of many regional COFs around the world that bring together climatologists, meteorologists, and the people who might use the information they produce (e.g. representatives from health, agriculture, water management, etc.).

Before this past December, the Caribbean only hosted such a meeting just before the wet season. But if rainfall during the wet season isn’t sufficient, drought can manifest and become further exacerbated during the dry season. Adrian Trotman of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), the main organizer of the event, explains in the video below why the Caribbean needed a dry season COF. Trotman is an assiduous, energetic scientist who constantly motivates the conference attendees; he brilliantly blends the fun, laid-back Caribbean spirit with the focus needed to move climate resilience in the region forward.