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HomeNewsLocal newsDrought Conditions End Across USVI and Puerto Rico; Hot Temperatures to Continue

Drought Conditions End Across USVI and Puerto Rico; Hot Temperatures to Continue

Drought monitor graphic showing the USVI and Puerto Rico. Drought conditions have disappeared across both U.S. territories due to recent heavy rain. (Photo courtesy of NIDIS)

Due to recent significant rainfall, drought conditions have ended across the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. However, hot temperatures and more precipitation are likely throughout the summer.

“Above-normal to much above-normal rainfall was observed across Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the past two months, putting an end to remaining drought across the Caribbean U.S. territories,” according to information contained in an update released on June 7 from the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“In fact, [from the beginning of April] through May 31, parts of the USVI and Puerto Rico are having their wettest year on record,” the update continued.

“No further drought is expected to develop during the upcoming months,” according to the NIDIS. “Forecasters anticipate a wet and active Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season. Above-normal temperatures and extreme heat events are expected to continue this summer due to record warm sea surface temperatures in the Caribbean Sea and the south Atlantic Ocean.”

Record Rainfall

The NIDIS report explained that all three major islands across the USVI have received above-average rainfall, with St. Croix experiencing its wettest five months on record since 1921.

An image indicating rainfall deviation from normal across Puerto Rico. While a USVI map is unavailable, both U.S. territories have received record rainfall amounts in recent months. (Photo courtesy NWS San Juan, Puerto Rico)

“Very wet conditions were observed across the U.S. Virgin Islands, especially St. Croix. Reports from the CoCoRaHS network [a group of volunteer weather observers] show two stations near Christiansted have seen more than 32 inches of rain year to date through May 31,” The NIDIS said. “This is the wettest first five months on record for any station in St. Croix, dating back to 1921. Stations in St. John show the second wettest year to date since 1983. St. Thomas is also much wetter than normal. The National Weather Service (NWS) Cooperative Observer Program site at East End in St. Croix observed its second wettest start of the year, with 20.14 inches collected since January 1.”

“Therefore, Abnormally Dry conditions were removed from St. Thomas, leaving all islands free from drought,” the NIDIS added.

Puerto Rico also accumulated significant amounts of rain.

“May rainfall amounts generally exceeded 150 percent to 200 percent of normal,” the NIDIS stated. “Additionally, the San Juan area climate monitoring station registered the second wettest first five months of the year, with 32.90 inches since January 1. This is the wettest first five months of the year in over 120 years, with only 1902 (36.68 inches) being wetter.”

“The remaining drought affecting the eastern interior and northwestern Puerto Rico was completely erased,” the update noted.

Over the last couple of months, the large amount of rainfall across both U.S. territories resulted in flooding and mudslides, and farmers reported difficulties with work due to the extreme weather. For example, in the USVI, “Flooding and landslides caused some erosion to farms and crop loss,” according to the NIDIS report.

Additional Precipitation During Summer

“The NWS Climate Prediction Center’s seasonal outlook calls for no drought development in the next three months,” the NIDIS said. “Additionally, the latest long-range guidance indicates that above-normal precipitation will persist across the northeastern Caribbean for the next few months.”

While the drought has ended across the region, more rain —and more hot temperatures— may be on the way during the summer. The Source contacted Emanuel Rodriguez, a meteorologist at the NWS in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for details regarding the forecast.

Rodriguez explained that the recent heavy rain that has occurred over the islands is the result of areas of low pressure moving across the region.

“The rain is mainly associated with several mid to upper-level troughs [areas of low-pressure] impacting the region,” Rodriguez said. “The troughs drag a lot of moisture from the Caribbean Sea, and that, combined with the warm waters, contributes to the production of showers and thunderstorms,” he continued.

The left photo shows flooding on a farm on St. Croix. On the right, mildew and mold on lettuce caused by [recent] floods. Photos by Bob Boyins, St. Croix Farmers, Neighbors Farms. (Photo and caption courtesy of NIDIS)
Rodriguez noted that the possible development of a La Niña weather pattern during the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season could also influence the amount of precipitation that the local islands receive.

“With [a] La Niña [weather pattern] forming in the Pacific, the frequency of tropical waves will be enhanced this year, moving closer to the islands. Thus, the climate models show more than normal precipitation continuing for the rest of 2024,” Rodriguez cautioned.

Hot Temperatures Are Expected to Continue

In addition to more rain, very warm weather is forecast to continue. Rodriguez said that the warm weather is partly influenced by extremely warm sea-surface temperatures and an ongoing marine heat wave.

“Unfortunately, the [current] marine heat wave will continue through the summer months,” explained Rodriguez. “With warmer waters, the small islands will not benefit from the usual buffer that [can typically] moderate the maximum and minimum temperatures [over the land],” he stated.

“[Therefore], temperatures will continue to be above normal for the rest of the summer, with high humidity values, making heat indices above 108 degrees [Fahrenheit] for most of the region,” Rodriguez warned. “The climate models indicate that temperatures will be about 2 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than normal through at least September (and possibly continuing beyond that),” he added.

On a positive note, Rodriguez noted that rainfall could bring some temporary relief from the sweltering temperatures.

“The only way we could see relief from the heat would be if tropical waves or troughs brought enough clouds to protect us from the sun. So, people should avoid being exposed to strong heating for long periods of time, especially from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Also, it’s important to stay hydrated. And do not forget about pets; they feel the heat stress, too.”

Residents are encouraged to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses, such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which can occur during hyperthermia. Remaining hydrated and cool is essential, as is noted in a previous Source article regarding extreme heat across the USVI.

Hot temperatures can be dangerous to the human body. It’s essential to be aware of warning signs of heat-related illnesses. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

“If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or tired, especially if you suffer from chronic diseases, it may be heat related, [and] you should look for cool places or [access] medical assistance,” Rodriguez advised.

Stay Informed About the Drought

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

Additionally, the local 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 find more information from the National Weather Service.

The NIDIS report notes that the following individuals have contributed information to the update:

Emanuel Rodriguez and Odalys Martinez, National Weather Service San Juan Weather Forecast Office
Héctor J. Jiménez, Office of Climatology, University of Puerto Rico
Meredith Muth, NOAA National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)
Victor Murphy, National Weather Service Southern Region
Christina Chanes, University of the Virgin Islands
Silmarie Crespo Vélez and Nora Álvarez-Berríos, USDA Caribbean Climate Hub, USFS International Institute of Tropical Forestry
Brad Rippey, USDA Office of the Chief Economist
Timothy Dalrymple, USGS Caribbean – Florida Water Science Center (CFWSC)



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