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Climate change results in drought in Belize

BELIZE CITY, Thurs. May 23, 2019– Belize’s dry season for 2019 has been especially stifling and the northern and central districts have be taking the brunt of the heat.  The National Meteorological Service of Belize has verified that short term drought is likely to occur in the Corozal, Orange Walk, northern Cayo and Northern Belize districts.

A drought occurs when there is lack of precipitation in an area for an extended period of time and can have drastic effects on a country’s agriculture, water supply and even on public health. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) which is an index used to provide early warnings of extended droughts as well as assessing drought severity, was utilized and determined that long term drought is evolving over most of Cayo district as well as southern Orange Walk and Western Belize and Stann Creek.

Droughts are typically considered long term after periods of six months and for Belize, this could mean the depletion or stagnation of growth in sugar, citrus fruits, papaya and other crops. It could also affect the livestock in these areas as water supplies reduce and make both fauna and people susceptible to illnesses that prosper in dry and/or humid atmospheres.

Already in southwestern Corozal, the severe weather conditions have caused the Sapote Lagoon to completely dry up. Not only was the lagoon used for recreation, but villagers relied on it as a source of lower level commercial and subsistence fishing.

This seems to be a phenomenon affecting the entire region, as the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCof) has been collecting data on this issue, and has determined that regions such as the ABC Islands, as well as Grenada and Suriname should be considered for a short term drought warning, while Barbados, central and south Belize, French Guiana, parts of Hispaniola and the US Caribbean Territories should be considered for a short term drought watch.

In terms of long term droughts, (based on a 12-month period) Antigua, Barbados, West-Central Belize, North Dominican Republic, Grenada, NE Guyana, ST. Lucia and Tobago should be considered for a drought warning. Most of Belize is also to be considered for a long term drought watch along with other Caribbean territories. In the event that the upcoming rainy season does not show an uptake of precipitation Belize may not only be vulnerable to crop damage, but to hurricanes as well due to the increase in temperatures inland.

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