El Niño won’t protect the Caribbean from storms

| 23/05/2023 | 30 Comments
Grand Cayman after Tropical Storm Grace

(CNS): Regional climate specialists are warning that the likely development of El Niño conditions this summer will not protect the Caribbean from severe storms and hurricanes. While the phenomenon is associated with drought, the Caribbean Sea is unusually warm, providing the opportunity for strong hurricanes to develop even if conditions are, as anticipated, very dry this summer.

While the leading storm forecasters at Colorado State University are calling for a slightly quieter-than-average hurricane season, they were keen to stress that their early predictions came with a high degree of uncertainty. And even if the impact of an El Nino reduces the number of storms in the Atlantic, the warm water will help intensify those that do emerge.

The conflict in weather patterns has experts at the UWI Global Institute for Climate Smart and Resilient Development and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) worried, as this region could experience a much more active season than is being suggested, even while residents manage another bad drought.

For several years the UWI and CIMH have been researching how El Niño events affect the Caribbean, and research shows that it tends to make it much drier. It was El Niño that caused the most severe droughts to impact the region in recent memory in 2014-2016. But the weather event did not stop Hurricanes Joaquin and Matthew, among others, from causing devastating damage in the Bahamas and Haiti.

El Niño, if it emerges, may be weak this year too, which means it may have little or no impact on the Atlantic. That, combined with the hotter-than-usual water, warmed by more dry, hot days and nights, means there is much more uncertainty about this hurricane season’s predictions than usual.

“The region can never let down its guard as it only takes one hurricane or storm to cause immense economic setbacks to an impacted country and sometimes the entire region,” the researchers at UWI and CIMH stated in a press release this week.”Very warm seas also impact coastal marine ecosystems such as coral reefs and seagrass beds, and offshore fisheries may experience disruption of seasonal patterns and uncertain catches.”

The UWI-CIMH research also shows that the warmth of both the Pacific and Atlantic will have a strong impact on how the rainy season will unfold, and they said that Caribbean governments should keep a close eye on global and regional climatic conditions over the next few months. They will need to potentially prepare for both very dry and very hot conditions and intense storms or hurricanes.

“We urge Caribbean governments, residents and other interests to continue paying close attention to shifts in global climate, including the likely emergence of El Niño this year. We also urge them to draw upon the available resources and scientific expertise in the region in understanding the implications for Caribbean societies and in crafting their response,” the experts warned.

Climate change is having an increasing effect on weather patterns, making it more difficult for even the most committed storm experts to make solid predictions. The Cayman Islands has not had a major hurricane impact since Cayman Brac was struck by Paloma in 2008, and it will be 19 years in September since Hurricane Ivan wiped out Grand Cayman.

In the intervening years, a number of storms have emerged suddenly nearby or intensified very quickly, as was the case with Tropical Storm Grace in August 2021, taking residents by surprise.

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Category: Science & Nature, Weather

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hurricanes are a hoax

  2. Anonymous says:

    2004 was an El Niño year, anyone remover what happened in September of that year?

  3. Anonymous says:

    The radar will protect us.
    Assuming its working of course

  4. Anonymous says:

    El Nino conditions increases the likelihood of wind sheer in the Caribbean, this is why there are fewer forecasts for major storms.

    It doesn’t matter how warm the water is, if a storm cannot orient its self vertically it intensify slowly if at all.

    The real danger is that you will still get short periods of low sheer, and with the warm water, these can then be subject to rapid intensification

    • Anonymous says:


      • Anonymous says:

        shear, actually, it is not a proper noun and does not need capital letters.

        It seems you learned to spell, but that was it, at least you learned something new today.


    • Beaumont Zodecloun says:

      Thank you. You said it so much better and shorter than I could have.

      We can look back on previous ENSO cycles for guidance; these cycles have been documented since the 1960s, when the acronym was first coined.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Good. We didn’t ask for Mexico’s help anyway.

  6. Anonymous says:

    And we want to destroy the mangrove for the east west bypass……smh!

  7. Anonymous says:

    2022 was the quiet season, yet, Hurricane Ian has managed to devastate Cape Coral, Fort Myers and other SWFL cities.

    Hurricane Ian will likely be remembered as one of the largest and costliest natural disasters to hit Florida in history. Commercial buildings, infrastructure and residences throughout the state were destroyed and are in various states of ruin, with damages estimated at over $100 billion

    While the rest of the world has already forgotten about Ian, restoration/rebuilding/repairs are just starting in the affected areas, due to skilled construction workforce and building supplie shortages and soaring costs.

    So keep that in mind getting ready for 2023 hurricane season.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anyone know the best place to buy good generators? New to the island.

    • Anonymous says:

      Online and pay duties.

    • Mumbichi says:

      If you are truly new, generators — even small 5Kw ones — will use a minimum of 5 gallons of fuel per day, just for basic household needs, not including a/c. The real issue is not the generators, but the fuel storage.

      Generac, which uses propane, burns cleaner and is a good deal, if you can afford the initial cost. Check with your propane source for more info. Solar/wind is a good bet for residential structures, and you can probably set up your small house for $50,000 or so. The upside is that once you break even five years hence, everything after that is pure savings, at least until the batteries wear out.

      • Anonymous says:

        Thanks 4:50. I can’t afford the Generac option you suggest! Appreciate your suggestions though.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Record profits for CUC soon come!!!

    Beans & rice diet for consumers too!!!


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