Tag Archive | extreme weather effects

Climate Scientists Use Forecasting Tools to Protect Caribbean Ways of Life

by Zadie Neufville

The following was published by InterPress Service on Aug 7, 2017

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Since 2013, Jamaica’s Met Office has been using its Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) to forecast ‘below average’ rainfall or drought across the island. The tool has allowed this northern Caribbean island to accurately predict several dry periods and droughts, including its most destructive episode in 2014 when an estimated one billion dollars in agricultural losses were incurred due to crop failures and wild fires caused by the exceptionally dry conditions.

In neighbouring Cuba, the reputation of the Centre for Atmospheric Physics at the Institute for Meteorology (INSMET) is built on the development of tools that “provide reliable and timely climate and weather information” that enables the nation to prepare for extreme rainfall and drought conditions as well as for hurricanes.

Regional scientists believe the extended dry periods are one of several signs of climate change, now being experienced across the region. Dr. Ulric Trotz, Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) – known regionally as the Five Cs – believes climate change is threatening the “Caribbean’s ways of life”.

The drought tools allow regional authorities to guide farmers so they avoid losses

Dr. Trotz noted, “Some countries in the Caribbean like Barbados and Antigua are inherently water scarce. It is expected that climate change will exacerbate this already critical situation. We have seen in recent times the occurrence of extended droughts across the Caribbean, a phenomenon that is expected to occur more frequently in the future.

“Droughts have serious implications across all sectors – the water, health, agriculture, tourism -and already we are seeing the disastrous effects of extended droughts throughout the Caribbean especially in the agriculture sector, on economies, livelihoods and the well-being of the Caribbean population,” he said.

With major industries like fisheries, tourism and agriculture already impacted, the region continues to look for options. Both the Cuban and Jamaican experiences with forecasting tools means their use should be replicated across the Caribbean, Central and South America as scientists look for ways to battle increasingly high temperatures and low rainfall which have ravaged the agricultural sector and killed corals across the region.

Charged with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s mandate to coordinate the region’s response to climate change, the ‘Five Cs’ has been seeking financial support investigating and pooling regional resources to help countries cope with the expected impacts since its birth in 2004. These days, they are introducing and training regional planners in the application and use of a suite of tools that will help leaders make their countries climate-ready.

The experts believe that preparing the region to deal with climate change must include data collection and the widespread use of variability, predictability and planning tools that will guide development that mitigate the impacts of extreme climatic conditions.

The recent Caribbean Marine Climate Report card reflects the findings of the latest Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, pointing to the need for countries to ramp up their adaptation strategies. Both highlight the many significant risks climate change is expected to bring to regional economies that depend heavily on eco-systems based industries; where major infrastructure are located along the coasts and where populations are mainly poor.The report points to the threats to biodiversity from coral bleaching; rising sea temperature and more intense storms which could destroy the region’s economy, and in some cases inundate entire communities.

The tools not only allow the users to generate country specific forecast information, they allow Met Officers, Disaster Managers and other critical personnel to assess likely impacts of climatic and extreme weather events on sectors such as health, agriculture and tourism; on critical infrastructure and installations as well as on vulnerable populations.

Jamaica has more than a million motor vehicles contributing to increased emissions and traffic jams like this one at the Highway 2000 off ramp at Marcus Garvey Drive.- Gleaner photo

Training is being rolled out under the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP) in countries of the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). CCAP was designed to build on both USAID’s Regional Development Cooperative Strategy which addresses development challenges in the countries in that part of the region, as well as the CCCCC’s Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to a Changing Climate and its associated Implementation Plan, which have been endorsed by the Heads of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries.

Regional experts and government officers working in agriculture, water resources, coastal zone management, health, physical planning and disaster risk reduction from Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago are being taught to use a variety of tools.

The program aims to build resilience in the development initiatives of the countries as they tackle climate change-induced challenges, which are already being experienced by countries of the region.

At a recent workshop in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, trainees were confident that the tools could become critical to their developmental goals. St Lucian metrological forecaster Glen Antoinne, believes the tools could be “useful for St Lucia because they are directly related to our ability to forecast any changes in the climate”.

He looks forward to his government’s adoption of, in particular, the weather tools to  “support the climatology department in looking at trends, forecasting droughts and to help them to determine when to take action in policy planning and disaster management”.

The tools work by allowing researchers and other development specialists to use a range of climatic data to generate scientific information and carry out analysis on the likely impacts in the individual countries of the region. They are open source, to remove the need for similar expensive products being used in developed world, but effective, said INSMET’s Dr. Arnoldo Bezamilla Morlot.

“We saw the need to develop a drought tool that was not only easy to use, but free to the countries of the Caribbean so they would not have to spend large amounts of money for software,” he said.

“The more countries use the data, the more information that is available for countries and region to use,” Morlot continued, pointing out that the data is used to generate the information that then feeds into the decision making process.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston’s International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

CCAP also includes activities aimed at the expansion of the Coral Reef Early Warning System for the installation of data gathering buoys in five countries in the Eastern Caribbean providing data which, among other things will be used for ecological forecasts on coral bleaching and other marine events.

The project also provides for the strengthening of the hydro meteorological measurement systems in participating countries. This will allow for better monitoring of present day weather parameters and for generating data to feed into the climate models and other tools.

Among the tools being rolled out under the project are the Caribbean Assessment Regional DROught (CARiDRO) tool; the Caribbean Weather Generator, and the Tropical Storm Model which were designed to help experts to develop scenarios of future climate at any given location and to use these to more accurately forecast the impacts, and inform mitigating actions.

There are accompanying web portals and data sets that were developed and are being introduced to help countries to enhance their ability to reduce the risks of climate change to natural assets and populations in their development activities.

These online resources are designed to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s development. Their integration into national planning agendas across the region is being facilitated through regional and country workshops to ensure effective decision-making while improving climate knowledge and action.

“The resulting information will help leaders make informed decisions based on the projections and forecasting of likely levels of impact on their infrastructure and economies,” Lavina Alexander from St Lucia’s Department of Sustainable Development noted, pointing to that country’s recent experiences with hurricanes and extreme rainfall events.

As one of the tool designers, Morlot believes that by providing free access to the tools, the project is ensuring that “more countries will begin to collect and use the data, providing regional scientists with the ability to make more accurate forecasts of the region’s climate.”

Putting all the information and tools in one place where it is accessible by all will be good for the region, he said.


Caribbean Scientists Work to Limit Climate Impact on Marine Environment

by Zadie Neufville

The following was published by InterPress Service (IPS) on April 28, 2017
KINGSTON, Jamaica:
Caribbean scientists say fishermen are already seeing the effects of climate change, so for a dozen or so years they’ve been designing systems and strategies to reduce the impacts on the industry.

Diver checking growing reef fragments

Caribbean scientists are finding some successes in reef gardens. This diver checks growing reef fragments.

While some work on reef gardens and strategies to repopulate over fished areas, others crunch the data and develop tools designed to prepare the region, raise awareness of climate change issues and provide the information to help leaders make decisions.

As the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further.

In December 2017, the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) secretariat, with funding from the UK government, announced a Climate Report Card to help formulate strategies to lessen the impact of climate change on regional fisheries.

“The CRFM is trying to ensure that the issue of climate change as it relates to the fisheries sector comes to the fore… because the CARICOM Heads of Government have put fish and fishery products among the priority commodities for CARICOM. It means that things that affect that development are important to us and so climate change is of primary importance,” said Peter Murray, the CRFM’s Programme Manager for Fisheries and Development.

The grouping of small, developing states are ‘fortifying’ the sectors that rely on the marine environment, or the Blue Economy, to withstand the expected ravages of climate change which scientists say will increase the intensity of hurricanes, droughts, coastal sea level rise and coral bleaching.

In its last report AR5, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported: “Many terrestrial, freshwater and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges, seasonal activities, migration patterns, abundances and species interactions in response to ongoing climate change,” patterns that are already being noted by Caribbean fishers.

In an email to IPS, Murray outlined several initiatives across the Caribbean that he says are crucial to regional efforts. The Report Card, which has been available since March, will provide the in-depth data governments need to make critical decisions on mitigation and adaptation. It provides information covering ocean processes such as ocean acidification; extreme events like storms, surges and sea temperature; biodiversity and civil society including fisheries, tourism and settlements.

In addition, the 17-members of the CRFM agreed to incorporate the management of fisheries into their national disaster plans, and signed off on the Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy for the fisheries sector.

“It means that anything looking at climate change and potential impacts is important to us,” Murray says.

The IPCC’s gloomy projections for world fisheries has been confirmed by a 2015 World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report indicating that for the last 30 years, world fisheries have been in decline due to climate change. In the Caribbean, reduced catches are directly impacting the stability of entire communities and the diets and livelihoods of some of the region’s poorest. Further decline could devastate the economies of some islands.

Birds flock to fishermen’s boats at landing of Pedro Bank, Jamaica. CHECK WITH MACR FOR USAGE RIGHTS

But even as climate change is expected to intensify the effects of warming ocean waters, pelagic species could avoid the Caribbean altogether, bringing even more hardships. So the regional plan is centred on a Common Fisheries Policy that includes effective management, monitoring and enforcement systems and tools to improve risk planning.

In addition to the disaster plan and its other activities, the Community has over time installed a Coral Reef Early Warning System; new data collection protocols; improved computing capacity to crunch climate data; an insurance scheme to increase the resilience of fishing communities and stakeholders; as well as several tools to predict drought and excessive rainfall.

Worldwide, three billion people rely on fish as their major source of protein. The industry provides a livelihood for about 12 per cent of the world’s population and earns approximately 2.9 trillion dollars per year, the WWF reports. With regional production barely registering internationally, the Caribbean is putting all its efforts into preserving the Blue Economy, which the World Bank said earned the region 407 billion dollars in 2012.

The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, known regionally as the 5Cs, has coordinated and implemented a raft of programmes aimed at building systems that will help the region cope the effects of climate change.

Through collaboration with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 5Cs has been setting up an integrated network of climate and biological monitoring stations to strengthen the region’s early warning mechanism.

And as the oceans absorb more carbon, the region’s supply of conch and oysters, the mainstay of some communities, is expected to decline further. In addition, warming sea water is expected to shift migration routes for pelagic fish further north, reducing the supply of available deep sea fish even more. Added to that, competition for the dwindling resources could cause negative impacts of one industry over another.

But while scientists seek options, age-old traditions are sometimes still pitted against conservation projects. Take an incident that played out in the waters around St. Vincent and the Grenadines a few weeks ago when whale watchers witnessed the harpooning of two orcas by Vincentian fishermen.

The incident forced Prime Minister Ralph Gonsavles to announce the end of what was, until then, a thriving whaling industry in the village of Barouille. For years, government turned a blind eye as fishermen breached regional and international agreements on the preservation of marine species. The continued breaches are also against the Caribbean Community’s Common Fisheries Policy that legally binds countries to a series of actions to protect and preserve the marine environment and its creatures.

On April 2, five days after the incident, Gonsalves took to the airwaves to denounce the whaling caused by “greed” and announce pending regulations to end fishing for the mammals. The incident also tarnished the island’s otherwise excellent track record at climate proofing its fishing industry.

Murray’s email on regional activities outlines SVG activities including the incorporation of the regional strategy and action plan and its partnership with several regional and international agencies and organisations to build resilience in the marine sector.

redtail parrot fish

Redtail parrot

Over in the northern Caribbean, traditions are also testing regulations and international agreements. In Jamaica, the Sandals Foundation in association with major supermarket chains has launched a campaign to stop the capture and sale of parrotfish for consumption.

Scientists say that protecting the parrot is synonymous with saving the reefs and mitigating the effects of climate change. And further north in the Turks and Caicos, the government is searching for new ways to manage the conch and lobster populations. While trade is regulated, household use of both, sea turtles, and some sharks remain unregulated; and residents are resistant to any restrictions.

And while many continue to puzzle about the reasons behind the region’s climate readiness, scientists caution that there is no time to ease up. This week they rolled out, among other things, a coastal adaptation project and a public education and awareness (PAE) programme launched on April 26 in Belize City.

The PAE project, named Feel the Change, is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Project (J-CCCP) public awareness programme. Speaking at the launch, project development specialist at 5Cs Keith Nichols pointed to the extreme weather events from severe droughts to changes in crop cycles, which have cost the region billions.

“Climate change is not just sea level rise and global warming; climate change and climate variability is all around us,” he said

Jamaica’s Drought Tool Could Turn the Table on Climate Change

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by IPS on  January 13, 2016  
On a very dry November 2013, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service made its first official drought forecast when the newly developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used to predict a high probability of below average rainfall in the coming three months.

By February, the agency had officially declared a drought in the eastern and central parishes of the island based on the forecasts. July’s predictions indicated that drought conditions would continue until at least September.


Parched cracked ground

Said to be the island’s worst in 30 years, the 2014 drought saw Jamaica’s eastern parishes averaging rainfall of between 2 and 12 per cent, well below normal levels. Agricultural data for the period shows that production fell by more than 30 per cent over 2013 and estimates are that losses due to crop failures and wild fires amounted to one billion dollars.

Jamaica’s agricultural sector accounts for roughly seven per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Met Service’s, Glenroy Brown told IPS, “The CPT was the main tool used by our Minister (of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change) Robert Pickersgill throughout 2015 to advise the nation on the status of drought across the island .”

It was also used but the National Water Commission (NWC) to guide its implementation of island-wide water restrictions.

A technician with Jamaica’s Met Service, Brown designed and implemented the tool in collaboration with Simon Mason, a climate scientist from Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The tool provides a Windows package for constructing a seasonal climate drought forecast model, producing forecasts with updated rainfall and sea surface temperature data,” he explained.

The innovation was one of the first steps in building resilience under Jamaica’s national climate policy. It provides drought-monitoring forecasts that allows farmers to plan their planting around dry periods and has been “tailored for producing seasonal climate forecasts from a general circulation model (GCM), or for producing forecasts using fields of sea-surface temperatures,” Brown said.

Farmers in the Hills above Kingston depend on rainwater

Farmers in the Hills above Kingston depend on rainwater. Most small farms on the island are rain-fed.

The tool combines a number of applications including Google Earth and localised GIS maps, to generate one to five day forecasts that are country and location specific. The information is broken down and further simplified by way of colour-coded information and text messages for the not so tech-savvy user.

The tool designed by Brown and Mason also incorporated IRI’s own CPT (designed by Mason) that was already being used by Caribbean countries with small meteorological services and limited resources, to produce their own up-to-date seasonal climate forecasts. The new tool combined data on recent rainfall and rainfall predictions to provide a forecast that focused specifically on drought.

“It was important for us to design a system that addressed Jamaica’s needs upfront, but that would also be suitable for the rest of the region,” Mason noted.

The scientists explained, “Because impact of a drought is based on the duration of the rainfall” and not only the amount of rainfall, looking forward is not enough to predict droughts because of factors related to accumulation and intensification.

“What we’re doing is essentially putting a standard three-month rainfall forecast in context with recent rainfall measurements,” Mason, told USAID’s publication Frontlines last May. He noted that if below-normal rainfall activity was recorded during an unusually dry period, indications were there was a “fairly serious drought” ahead.

Sheldon Scott from Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) told IPS that farmers who used the SMS information were able to avoid the worse effects of the drought.

“The impacts were visible in relation to farmers who used the information and others who didn’t, because those who did were able to manage the mitigating factors more effectively,” he said.

During the period, more than 500 farmers received text alerts and about 700,000 bulletins were sent to agricultural extension officers.

Among the farmers who signed up for text messaging service, Melonie Risden told Frontlines, “The information we received from the Met office gave us drought forecasts in terms of probabilities. We still decided to plant because we were fortunate to have access to the river and could fill up water drums ahead of time in anticipation of the drought.”

Risden lost the corn she planted on the 13-acre property in Crooked River, Clarendon, one of the parishes hardest hit by the drought with only two per cent of normal rainfall, but was able to save much of the peas, beans and hot peppers.

Six months after Jamaica’s Met Service made its ground-breaking forecast, the CIMH presented the first region-wide drought outlook at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum in Kingston. Now 23 other Caribbean and Central American countries are using the tool to encourage climate change resilience and inform decision-making.

“Regionally the tool is now a standard fixture across several countries within the region, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. This regional effort is coordinated by the CIMH,” Brown said.

Back in Jamaica, the tool is being hailed “a game-changer” in the climate fight by Jeffery Spooner head of the Met Service, who described the CPT as “an extremely important tool in Climate Change forecasting and specifically for the agricultural – including fisheries- and water sectors for rainfall projection .”

The CPT is now also used to provide regular monthly bulletins that are published by the Meteorological Service on their web site http://www.jamaicaclimate.net. RADA has also continued to use the CPT in its extension service, to enhance the ability of farmers’ and other agricultural interests to improve water harvesting, planting and other activities.

Since most of the island’s small farms depend on rainfall, more farmers – including those with large holdings – are using the information to better manage water use and guide their activities, Scott said.

Local and intentional scientists have linked the extreme atmospheric conditions related to the droughts affecting Jamaica and the region to the persistent high-pressure systems that has prevented the formation of tropical cyclones to global warming and climate change.


Image from the Jamaica Weather website shows areas likely to have less rainfall

Across the agricultural sector, Jamaica continues to feel the impacts of drought and the challenges are expected to increase with the climate change. In a 2013 agricultural sector support analysis, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated, low impact on extreme climate events on Jamaica’s agriculture sector by 2025 could reach 3.4 per cent of “baseline GDP” annually.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) pointed to tools like the CPT to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Its importance to Jamaica’s and the region’s food security and water sector cannot be overlooked.

In addition to adaptation for the water sector, the CPT is being modified to provide early warning indicators for wind speeds and coral bleaching among among other applications, said the report.

And as showers of blessings cooled the land and brought much relief in the closing months of the year, CPT shows the drought could well be over.



Climate Change Will Increase Damage, Losses in Coastal Communities

Jamaica's Negril beach in the vicinity of the Tree House Hotel bar after rough seas on Good Friday 2013 and prior to the fire that destroyed the Country Country Hotel restaurant in the foreground. Credit: Mary Veira/IPS

Jamaica’s Negril beach in the vicinity of the Tree House Hotel bar after rough seas on Good Friday 2013 and prior to the fire that destroyed the Country Country Hotel restaurant in the foreground. Credit: Mary Veira/IPS

By Zadie Neufville

The following was published by IPS on December 4,  2015. The original is here
Residents of Rocky Point, a bustling fishing village on Jamaica’s south coast, woke up one July morning this year to flooded streets and yards. The sea had washed some 200 metres inland, flooding drains and leaving knee-deep water on the streets and inside people’s home, a result of high tides and windy conditions.

“I’ve been here for 43 years and I have never seen it like this,” Sydney Thomas told the Jamaica Observer newspaper.

Over at the Hellshire Fishing Beach, a community several miles outside the capital city Kingston, fishermen watched as their beach disappeared over a matter of weeks. The sea now lapped at the sides of buildings. Boats that once sat on the sand were bobbing in the surf along the edge of what remained of the white sand beach.

At the far end of the Hunts Bay basin, the inner-city community of Seaview Gardens sits at the edge of the mangrove swamp. For decades, residents there lived with overflowing sewage systems, the result of a backflow that is caused when seawater enters outflow pipes, flooding the network and pushing waste water back into homes and the streets.

Flooding in coastal communities around Jamaica is nothing new but in recent years, what used to be unusual has become a frequent occurrence.

Coastal Zone Management Specialist Peter Wilson-Kelly has seen several areas of the island where the stories are the same.

“It’s a combination of incremental climate change factors like sea level rise, hurricane damage from which new shoreline position baselines have evolved and man-made influences, such as hard structures too close to the shore,” he said.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston's International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Heavy rains and high waves from Hurricane Ivan in 2004 battered coastal towns, marooned the Kingston’s International Airport, destroyed several roads and bridges .- Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

In 2004, six people died when a storm surge pushed by Hurricane Ivan inundated Portland Cottage. And in East Kingston, several multi-million dollar homes along Caribbean Terrace, a residential community overlooking the sea, were destroyed when the hurricane pushed the sea inland.

High waves also destroyed the sand dunes, which prior to that time, had served as a natural fortification for the Palisadoes Road, which connects the historic town of Port Royal and the Norman Manley International Airport to the rest of the country.

The Caribbean has contributed very little to global climate change, but UN experts warn that small island nations like these are expected to bear the brunt of the damage. In Jamaica, the destruction of wetlands to make way for development projects and overfishing have reduced the effectiveness of the reefs, exposing the coastline to unchecked wave actions and undermined the effectiveness of the wetlands to limit the impact of high tides.

Wilson-Kelly also blames unchecked development for the problems at the Hellshire beach.

“The reef’s been damaged for some time and hurricanes Ivan, Dean, Sandy and a bunch of other systems have passed and influenced the shoreline. However, the numbers of facilities that have established themselves on the Hellshire beach have also increased,” he said.

According to a 2010 UNDP report, Modeling the Transformational Impacts Climate Change on the Caribbean, “Rising sea levels caused by climate change are set to cause billions of dollars in damage to the islands states and wipe out the best Caribbean tourist resorts by the middle of the century.”

It is the reason Caribbean countries like Jamaica are lobbying for a 1.5 degree Celsius cap on temperature rise above preindustrial levels at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in France, in December.

Scientists writing in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) noted, “Climate change will amplify existing risks and create new risks for natural and human systems. Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development.”

The Caribbean is reported to have lost 136 billion dollars due to damage from climate change between 1990 and 2008, due to climate related damage. In its 2010 Modeling report, the UNDP warned that without adaptation and mitigation, the Caribbean could lose five per cent of its GDP or 10.7 billion dollars by 2025. By 2050, that figure could more than double, rising to roughly 22 billion dollars by 2050 or about 10 per cent of GDP.

Coastal infrastructure are at risk. Kingston Wharves at Gordon Key lies inside the Kingston Harbour.

Coastal infrastructure are at risk. Kingston Wharves at Gordon Key lies inside the Kingston Harbour.

In 2011, Jamaica’s second communication to the UNFCCC projected that the cost of protecting tourist resorts in the most vulnerable areas could cost between 92.3 million dollars and 993.8 million dollars. Some reports are, that by 2080, the 15 CARICOM member states could face a staggering 187 billion dollars in repairs and rebuilding costs for some of their best tourist resorts.

The outlook is ominous, given Jamaica’s history of destructive storm surges and major incidents of floods in recent decades and resulting in damage to infrastructure and loss of life. Besides the unsanitary effects of flooded sewers, the value of social and economic assets exposed to the hazards associated with coastal flooding has been estimated at 18.6 billion dollars.

Economist Maurice Mason noted, “Everything up to 10 meters of Jamaica’s coast, all of the island’s critical facilities, including power generation facilities, trans-shipment ports, both major airports and resort towns” representing about 70 per cent of the country’s GDP are at risk.

Elevating four kilometers of the Palisadoes road just over three metres in 2010 cost Jamaica some 65 million dollars. Several mitigation projects later, Rocky Point continues to suffer coastal flooding.

In Portland Cottage, residents replanted denuded mangroves to strengthen their natural coastal fortifications that they credited with minimising the loss of lives in 2004.

Along the famous Negril beach, government and residents still haggle over the most effective way to protect the coast because none, neither government nor private sector, can afford the full cost of protection and the international community has provided only a fraction of the estimated 25 million dollars needed.

But as the experts contend, “Many adaptation and mitigation options can help address climate change, but no single option is sufficient by itself. “

Under Jamaica’s Vision 2030 Plan, many adaptation measures will, over time, mitigate some of the effects. Several communities have and do benefit, but only education, continued preparation and global action can manage the effects.


Jamaica’s Aging Water Systems Falter Under Intense Heat and Drought

By Zadie Neufville

(The following article was published by InterPress Service on  Nov 18 2015 )

KINGSTON, Jamaica: This past summer Jamaicans sweltered through their third consecutive year of reduced rainfall resulting in wild fires, a crop-killing drought and daily water cuts.

As temperatures exceeded 93.7 F (34.2 Celsius) in several areas, the Meteorological Service urged Jamaicans to “Wake up to the realisation that climate change is already a fact of life.” Some of the hottest days on record had been recorded in July with even higher temperatures predicted for August.

54With storage running low and an expectation that conditions would exceed the drought of 2014, the National Water Commission (NWC) began its annual restrictions and rolling lock-offs. In 2014, thought to be Jamaica’s worse drought in more than 30 years, rainfall averaged 2 to 12 percent in the most affected areas.

Meteorologist Evan Thompson told reporters at the Gleaner’s Editors Forum on July 1, “We are talking about climate change, sometimes thinking about it as something that is still coming, whereas it is something that is already here.”

As the NWC scrambled to reactivate out-of-use wells to ease the shortages, many called for the dredging of dams and reservoirs to increase storage capacities. Environment, Water and Climate Change Minister Robert Pickersgill announced a ‘prohibition notice’ with a penalty of up to 30 days in jail for “anyone caught using the precious liquid for anything other than household and sanitary use. “ For the first time Jamaica had attached enforcement penalties to water restrictions.

Kingston, one of the areas most affected by lock offs, sits on an abundance of tainted water in underground aquifers. But the capital city’s large untapped water source represents only a portion of the vast reserves that experts say remain under-exploited.

According to the Water Resources Authority (WRA), the island’s water management and regulatory body, Jamaica uses only 25 percent of its available groundwater resources and 11 percent of its accessible surface water.

Head of the WRA Basil Fernandez told IPS that it would take “proper water planning to deal with non-revenue water and improve transmission and distribution efficiency,” to solve the problem.

“There is need for a roadmap from the NWC and/or the Ministry on water supply planning that will set out clearly the areas of deficit, areas of surplus and how and when we will move from surplus to deficit areas,” he said.

Across the country households cleared inventories of water tanks, manufacturers increased production and hoteliers tapped into their storage tanks. Fires and the unrelenting sun destroyed the rain-fed farms of prized Blue Mountain Coffee crops, vegetable crops and Christmas trees that are grown in the buffer zone of the Blue Mountain National Park.

Lower down the slopes, fires also destroyed mature trees and vegetation in the Hope River and Yallahs Watershed areas, which supply 40 percent of NWC’s 600,000 customers in the Kingston Metropolitan region. Much of the area had been replanted between 2011 and 2013 as part of Jamaica’s Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction.

Under the project, the Forestry Department replanted more than 300,000 hectares of forests in degraded upper watershed areas to reduce run-off, erosion and silting of the waterways.

LABUSA-SUGAR-CANE-WORKERSAs water restrictions widened, farmers on the plains fared no better. The usually six-month long sugar cane harvest was over in less than a month after fires and drought decimated the crop. The Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) reported that the drought was most severe in Manchester and St. Elizabeth the ‘bread basket’ areas that accounted for about 40 percent of domestic agricultural production. In other areas crops wilted in the fields.

Scientists are predicting that these episodes will worsen as climate change increases the intensity of droughts across the Caribbean. Thompson agreed, noting that the unseasonably dry periods are happening in the midst of the Atlantic Hurricane season that runs from June 1 to November 30.

Unless there is rainfall and constant inflows of water, the volume of water will not significantly increase, Fernandez, told IPS, effectively dismissing calls for more dams and the de-silting the Mona Reservoir and Hermitage Dam.

“There must be better coordination of climate change efforts and projects; better communication to get the public to buy into the these efforts as well as the inclusion of climate change scenarios and impacts in all policies and projects and maintenance and adaptation of systems rather than building new systems,” he said.

As part of Jamaica’s Vision 2030, to make the country more resilient to the impacts of climate change, Government has begun work to protect and better manage the distribution of water. At risk are the nation’s health, the tourism and agricultural industries and Jamaica’s food security.

Vision 2030 is built into Jamaica’s second national communication to the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (UNCCC).

In the last year, 25 water and sewage projects were completed to upgrade then old, leaky infrastructure which when coupled with theft, costs the NWC about 53 percent or 108 million liters of its daily production in the Kingston Metropolitan Area alone.

A 3.9 million dollar Watershed Management project funded by the Inter-American Development Bank through the Global Environment Facility (GEF) is expected to, among other things, improve water resource management in the Yallahs and Hope River watersheds. The five year programme is to carry out work on 44,486 hectares of land including sections of the region’s newest World Heritage Site, the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park.

The river at Castleton Gardens, Jamaica. Rivers are one of the main sources of water on the island.

The river at Castleton Gardens, Jamaica. Rivers are one of the main sources of water on the island.

An Artificial Aquifer Recharge facility to secure the sustainable abstraction of water from the aquifer by treating and returning excess water into natural underground storage is ongoing.

“This is a pioneering project, as it has never before been carried out in Jamaica or the Caribbean,” Pickersgill said at the July 2014 launch.

In addition, Government is also looking at plans to recover some of Kingston’s water that has been polluted by faecal bacteria from soak-away pits, latrines and saline intrusion.

The key to making the country resilient Fernandez said is “the preparation of communities and agencies to manage and conserve the resources; efficiently moving water from the north to the south of the island and a move to larger more efficient and resilient distribution systems.”

As Thompson explained, “So the droughts will be more severe, the rainfall episodes will be more significant, causing flooding. There will still be the need to work out how we manage the water resourced in between those episodes.”

The original article is here

Could CARICOM Oil Deal With Venezuela Hamper Caribbean COP21 Negotiations?

By Zadie Neufville
The following article was published by SciDev (in Spanish) on November 11, 2015

On the eve of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), the Caribbean climate negotiators are pushing forward with negotiation plans for 1.5 degrees Celsius (until 2100) to prevent inundation of some, and extensive infrastructural damage in other CARICOM states.

The campaign ‘1.5 To Stay Alive’, to raise awareness about the region’s vulnerability to Climate Change is a good example. The campaign aims to raise awareness to the effects of Climate Change while building momentum for the region’s negotiating position ahead of the meeting.

PetrojamD20060815RB“The (Caribbean) region is still campaigning for 1.5 degrees Celsius (until 2100) with the understanding that other negotiators including the European Union are looking at 2.0 degrees,” Devon Gardner, head of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Energy Unit has said.

However, the cheap oil and additional benefits from the 10- year old PetroCarib deal between Venezuela and CARICOM, could complicate the negotiations.

The deal would be strengthened with a promise of new economic benefits to aid food security, assist with health care and agricultural development under a new Caribbean Economic Development Zone, announced in Jamaica on September 6 by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.

Alexander Ochs, WorldWatch Institute’s Director of Climate and Energy agreed that the deal could be a hindrance for investments in domestic renewable energy, but said to SciDev: “Caribbean governments are increasingly aware of the enormous financial, environmental and social costs associated with continued dependence on fossil fuels”.

The United States, European Union and Canada are investing millions to help the regional governments meet their obligations to provide clean energy for their citizens.

On October 28, CARICOM in collaboration with the WorldWatch Institute launched the Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy (C-SERMS) Baseline Report and Assessment as well as the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency as part of its regional energy policy. The CARICOM Secretariat in 2013 promised to make renewables 48 percent of electricity generation by 2027.

“They (CARICOM) have a strong incentive to demonstrate to other countries that it is possible to reduce climate-altering emissions quickly,” Ochs said in a press release to mark the launch.

Gardner, also the Secretariat’s Program Manager for Energy, said the Roadmap’s assessments would guide the ‘strategy for building resilient energy systems within the region’.

“Even if the problem of global warming did not exist, and the burning of fossil fuels did not result in extensive local air and water pollution, CARICOM would still have to mandate to transition away from these fuels as swiftly as possible for reasons of social opportunity, economic competitiveness and national security,” Ochs said.

CARICOM represents 15 member states and 17 million residents

1.5 to Stay Alive Video:

Caribe: acuerdo petrolero complica negociaciones COP21

By Zadie Neufville

[KINGSTON] En vísperas de la COP21, los negociadores climáticos del Caribe realizan esfuerzos para llegar a 1.5 grados Celsius de temperatura (hasta 2100), única forma de prevenir inundaciones en algunos países de la región y graves daños  a la infraestructura de otros.

La campaña “1.5 para sobrevivir”, para crear conciencia sobre la vulnerabilidad de la región al cambio climático, es un ejemplo. Su objetivo es sensibilizar a la sociedad sobre los efectos del cambio climático, mientras se impulsa la posición negociadora de la región antes de la reunión mundial.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

Wigton Wind Farm, Jamaica. Jamaica Gleaner Photo.

“La región (del Caribe) sigue en campaña para llegar a 1.5 grados Celsius de temperatura (hasta 2100) en el entendimiento que otros negociadores como la Unión Europea están buscando llegar a 2 grados”, comenta Devon Gardner, jefe de la Unidad de Energía de la Comunidad del Caribe (CARICOM).

“Incluso si el problema del calentamiento global no existiese, la CARICOM tendría que obligar a realizar la transición de combustibles (fósiles) tan rápidamente como sea posible”

Alexander Ochs, Instituto WorldWatch

Sin embargo, el petróleo barato y otros beneficios adicionales del acuerdo petrolero de 10 años entre Venezuela y la CARICOM podrían complicar las negociaciones.

El acuerdo fue fortalecido con la promesa de nuevos beneficios económicos de ayuda a la seguridad alimentaria, cuidado de la salud y desarrollo agrícola bajo una nueva Zona de Desarrollo Económico del Caribe anunciada en Jamaica el 6 de setiembre por el presidente de Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Alexander Ochs, Director de Clima y Energía del Instituto WorldWatch cree que el acuerdo podría ser un obstáculo para las inversiones en energías renovables domésticas, pero añade: “los gobiernos del Caribe cada vez están más conscientes de los enormes costos financieros, ambientales y sociales asociados a la continua dependencia de los combustibles fósiles”.

Los Estados Unidos, la Unión Europea y Canadá están invirtiendo varios millones para ayudar a los gobiernos caribeños a cumplir sus metas de proveer energía limpia a sus ciudadanos.

El 28 de octubre, CARICOM y el Instituto WorldWatch lanzaron la línea base y evaluación de la Hoja de Ruta y Estrategia de Energía Sostenible del Caribe (C-SRMS en inglés), y el Centro Caribeño de Energías Renovables y Eficiencia Energética, como parte de su política energética regional. El Secretariado de CARICOM en 2013 prometió convertir a renovable el 48 por ciento de la generación eléctrica para 2027.

Gardner, quien también es Gerente de Energía del Secretariado, dice que la evaluación de la hoja de ruta guiará la “estrategia para crear sistemas de energía resilientes en la región”.

“Incluso si el problema del calentamiento global no existiese, y la quema de combustibles fósiles no diera lugar a la contaminación extensa del aire y el agua locales, la CARICOM tendría que obligar a realizar la transición de esos combustibles tan rápidamente como sea posible por razones de oportunidad social, competitividad económica y seguridad nacional”, dice Ochs a SciDev.Net.

CARICOM representa 15 estados miembros y 17 millones de habitantes.


Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.

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Herramienta de predicción climática muestra su eficacia

THis article was originally published by SciDev.com on July 13, 2015

Herramienta de predicción climática muestra su eficacia

By Zadie Neufville

[KINGSTON] Los agricultores del Caribe pueden planificar sus días de siembra evitando los periodos de sequía gracias a la Herramienta de Predictibilidad Climática (CPT por su sigla en inglés).
Utilizada por el Servicio Meteorológico de Jamaica para hacer su primer pronóstico oficial de sequía en noviembre de 2013, actualmente es empleada por 23 países del Caribe y América Central para monitorear sequías y otros eventos climáticos, y se espera que pronto otras regiones también la aprovechen.
Usando Google Earth y mapas GPS localizados, la CPT produce pronósticos climáticos estacionales usando el modelo de circulación general y las temperaturas de la superficie del mar. 

“Es una herramienta extremadamente importante para la predicción del cambio climático, específicamente para la agricultura, la pesca y sectores hídricos que requieren proyecciones de lluvias”.

Jeffery Spooner, Oficina de Meteorología de Jamaica

“Es una herramienta que proporciona alertas tempranas de sequía en localidades específicas con tres a seis meses de anticipación, de modo que los agricultores pueden planificar sus siembras alrededor de los períodos más secos”, explica a SciDev.Net Glenroy Brown, técnico en meteorología.
El diseñó la CPT junto con Simon Masson, científico climático de la Universidad de Columbia.
Basada en Windows, la CPT combina una serie de aplicaciones para generar pronósticos de uno a cinco días, específicos para un país y localidad. La información se descompone y simplifica aún más mediante codificación por colores y mensajes de texto que son enviados a agricultores y otros usuarios.
Fue usada primero para predecir una ‘alta probabilidad’ de lluvias inferiores al promedio en los tres meses que siguieron a la “peor sequía” que experimentó Jamaica en más de 30 años.
Nuevamente se usó en febrero de 2014 para predecir una sequía en el este de la isla, donde la precipitación promedio fue entre 2 y 12 por ciento. Se esperaba que la sequía durara hasta bien entrado setiembre.
Durante ese periodo la producción agrícola cayó 30 por ciento. Más de 500 agricultores recibieron mensajes de alerta por texto y se enviaron aproximadamente 700.000 boletines a funcionarios de extensión agrícola.
Sheldon Scott, de la Autoridad de Desarrollo Agrícola Rural de Jamaica (RADA por su sigla en inglés) afirma que los agricultores que usaron la información vía SMS pudieron eludir los peores impactos de la sequía.


“Campos enteros de cultivos se estaban muriendo. Los impactos fueron visibles entre los agricultores que usaron la información y los que no lo hicieron, porque los primeros pudieron manejar los factores de mitigación de forma más eficaz”, refiere.
RADA continúa usando la CPT para mejorar sus servicios de extensión. La comprobación de sus beneficios hace que más pequeños agricultores que dependen de las lluvias usen la información que brinda, precisa Scott.
La CPT ha sido modificada para brindar indicadores de alerta temprana sobre velocidad de los vientos y decoloración de los arrecifes coralinos entre otras aplicaciones.
Jeffery Spooner, Jefe del Servicio Meteorológico de Jamaica dice que la CPT es “una herramienta extremadamente importante para la predicción de cambios climáticos, específicamente para la agricultura, la pesca y sectores hídricos que requieren proyecciones de lluvias”.


Este artículo fue publicado originalmente en SciDev.Net. Lea la versión original aquí.