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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, June 12, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsDrought Conditions Improve Across USVI and Puerto Rico; Trend Expected to Continue

Drought Conditions Improve Across USVI and Puerto Rico; Trend Expected to Continue

Due to significant rainfall since February, drought conditions have improved across the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The trend is anticipated to continue over the coming months, and both U.S. territories are forecast to become drought-free.

“Beneficial rains were observed since Feb. 1 across portions of the territories, causing drought conditions to relax in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” according to information contained in an update released on April 11 from the National Integrated Drought Information System and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“The northeastern Caribbean is moving into the start of its wet season, and drought conditions are expected to improve further,” the NIDIS report added.

The precipitation received over the last couple of months has alleviated the dry conditions observed earlier this year. The NIDIS anticipates continued improvement despite portions of the islands remaining relatively parched.

“According to the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM), 15.2 percent of Puerto Rico is experiencing Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions, while nearly 6.6 percent is under a Moderate Drought (D1) [across the northwestern and the eastern interior of the island],” according to the NIDIS.

Drought monitor graphic showing the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Drought conditions have improved across both U.S. territories due to recent rain. (Photo courtesy NIDIS)
Drought monitor graphic showing the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Drought conditions have improved across both U.S. territories due to recent rain. (Photo courtesy NIDIS)

In the Virgin Islands, “St. Thomas remains under Abnormally Dry (D0) conditions, while St. Croix and St. John are currently free of drought or dryness,” the NIDIS reported.

The NIDIS provided details regarding the higher-than-normal amounts of rain that were observed across the region recently.

“Nearly a foot of rain was observed in Saint Croix in the past two months,” the NIDIS stated. “In the same time period, almost ten inches of rain were observed in St. Thomas. During the month of February, Windswept Beach in St. John saw 5.66 inches, which is a record wet total for the month there, dating back to 1984. These pulses of rain allowed for significant improvement across the islands,” the report detailed.

Puerto Rico, which continues to endure drought across portions of the northwest and the eastern areas of the island, has also benefited from substantial amounts of precipitation over the last two months.

“Puerto Rico observed beneficial rains over the past 60 days across most of the island, with only the northwest coast and southeast coast seeing below-normal rainfall,” the NIDIS stated.

“Parts of the southern coast and central interior saw more than 200 percent of normal rainfall during this period,” the NIDIS noted. “The amount of the island [categorized as experiencing] Moderate Drought (D1) fell from 40 percent in late February to only 6.6 percent in early April.”

Agricultural Sector Impacts

While the recent rain has been helpful, agriculturalists in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have reported that conditions across the region remain relatively dry. Farmers have also experienced gusty winds and warm temperatures, which, in addition to other meteorological factors, can help to increase evaporation rates, leading to drier soil.

“Farmers across the USVI stated that while light rain helps, it can also give a false impression,” the NIDIS cautioned. “The rain is just enough to quickly allow vegetation to bounce back, but then the vegetation dries out again very quickly due to heat and high winds. Some vegetation is showing signs of distress, including soil cracking,” the NIDIS continued.

Livestock and poultry farmers have also reported some adverse effects from dry conditions, particularly in the Virgin Islands.

“Poultry farmers across the USVI are reporting a decrease in egg production due to recent heat waves and winds, which have given them less access to water and vegetation for feed. Poultry farmers are currently using grain due to a consistent lack of access to vegetation and hay,” according to the NIDIS. “Overall, farmers have indicated that due to losses last year, prices for eggs have surged by more than 25 percent due to demand and increased production costs.”

The recent high temperatures have also taken a toll on farmers and agriculturalists in Puerto Rico.

The dry conditions along with the high temperatures reported pose a risk for the well-being of workers, who have chosen to finish tasks earlier [than usual] to protect themselves from the heat,” the NIDIS explained.

The NIDIS update reported that agriculturalists experiencing hardship due to drought impacts may qualify for financial aid.

“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, St. Croix and St. Thomas have already qualified for a ‘2023 Secretarial drought disaster declaration,’ based on the U.S. Drought Monitor. Similarly, livestock producers in St. Croix and St. Thomas qualified for direct assistance through the USDM-driven Livestock Forage Program,”  the update said.

The “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” indicates drought conditions are expected to improve across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. (Photo courtesy NIDIS)
The “U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook” indicates drought conditions are expected to improve across Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. (Photo courtesy NIDIS)

Stay Informed About the Drought

According to the Climate Prediction Center, part of NOAA, the drought is forecast to “disappear” across both U.S. territories by June 30.

“The NWS Climate Prediction Center’s Seasonal Drought Outlook calls for drought conditions to improve across the region, and drought removal is likely for both the eastern interior and northwestern Puerto Rico,” the NIDIS said. “No additional drought is expected to develop elsewhere in Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands in the next three months,” the NIDIS added.

Residents and agriculturalists can stay updated on the latest drought information on the NIDIS website.

The weather forecast for the U.S. Virgin Islands is regularly updated on the Source Weather Page and VI Source YouTube Channel. Individuals can also sign up for emergency alerts from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.

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