Droughts

Despite being in the tropics and having defined rainy seasons from approximately April to May, the Caribbean region (Mesoamerica and the Antilles Islands) is a space where conditions for severe water stress exist for three main reasons:

 

  • 7 out of the 36 countries with the greatest water stress on the planet are in the region, highly associated with island-states and their lack of rivers or aquifers of much importance. The island-states of Barbados, Antigua & Barbuda and St. Kitts & Nevis are three of the most vulnerable, with less than 1.000 m3 per capita. Many island-states depend exclusively on the rainwater for human consumption and agriculture.
shirley harbour, isla Antigua y Barbuda

The scenic beauty of Barbuda Island has reverted to an excessive urban development that endangers both the balance of the island’s natural environment and its biological species. In addition to the drought, the island is frequently hit by hurricanes, and was severely affected by Hurricane María in 2017. Source: Sean Pavone.

  • The region has suffered a trend of increasing drought since 1960, mainly affecting sections of the Central American Dry Corridor (CADC),  and the dry ecosystems in Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. This tendency is putting the Central American food security at risk and is affecting essential crops such as corn, that are completely dependent on rainwater.
Mapa distribución zonas secas del CSC

Location of the Central American Dry Corridor (CADC) and the Dry Arc of Panama with food insecurity, systems affected by recurring droughts and reduced annual rainfall. Source: Situation Report, June 2016. www.fao.org

Note in the image: the criteria used to delimit the Central American Dry Corridor and the Dry Arc of Panama is based on the zones in which the drought lasts over four months.

  • The regional effects of drought due to the ocean warming phenomena in the Pacific, El Niño phenomena, and the Tropical Atlantic (AMO/NAO) are increasing the frequency of droughts. Since 1980, the region has suffered up to 13 events of El Niño according to the ONI index (Oceanic Niño Index). These events lead to a severe reduction of precipitation in the Mesoamerican Caribbean, the events of 1982-1983, 1997-1998 and 2015-2016 were especially devastating. The situations associated with the heating of the Atlantic are similar, affecting the Amazons and regions of Mesoamerica. Out of these events, the severe droughts in the Caribbean in the years 2005 and 2009-2010 were particularly harsh (along with a drought following El Niño).
Gráfico muestra las variaciones de sequías por fenómenos de El Niño y La Niña

Intensity of the el Niño events according to the ONI Index. Source: https://ggweather.com/enso/oni.htm

Note in the image: 13 El Niño events since the 1980s

Droughts, hurricanes and human migrations

 

In addition to the impacts caused by drought (prolonged or specific years of El Niño or AMO/NAO), many regions of the Caribbean are simultaneously affected by hurricanes and floods that are entailed. This multitude of overlapped extreme events exceeds the response capacity of many Governments of the region and provokes mass exodus of persons looking for opportunity in the future. Mass Migrations from the Central American Dry Corridor took place after the drought of el Niño phenomenon in the years 2015-2016 and 2018-2019, followed by the mega-hurricane seasons of 2017 and 2020.
Sequías y migraciones humanas en Centroamérica

Left, effects of the drought known as «canícula» in 2015 in San José del Golfo, Guatemala. Source: CONRED. Right, migrant caravan in 2018 following the droughts of 2015-2016 and the devastating consequences of the mega-hurricane season of 2017. The situation was repeated in 2010, after the droughts of 2018-2019 and the mega-hurricane season of 2020. Source: GETTY IMAGES.

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