Friday, April 16, 2010

El Niño is Over - Finally

Sixteen months without significant rainfall is a big deal is Guatemala. Crop failures and hunger have resulted as 80 percent of some staple food crops such as corn and beans were lost. Here in Eastern Guatemala we are accustomed to 4,200 millimeters of rain each year. Since January of 2009 we've gotten 600 to 900 millimeters.

The cause of the drought in Guatemala is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). In early 2009, it was predicted that this El Niño would bring heavy rain, flooding, and deep snow to the Eastern United States, and bring high temperatures and drought to the "eastern equatorial Pacific", which meant the region from Southern Mexico to Peru. The prediction was correct.

In January of this year, the Climate Prediction Center that studies the ENSO said that they would make an announcement in March as to whether the El Niño would continue or come to an end. In March they announced that El Niño was fading.

A few days ago, INSIVUMEH released its long range forecast for Guatemala and it looks like we are going to have a normal to above-normal rainy season, and starting around the usual dates in different parts of the country. It has already begun in the highlands. Two days ago, Chimaltenango experienced very heavy rains, flooding, and a record-breaking eight inches of hail. Thunderstorms are in progress every night across much of Guatemala.

Here on the Caribbean side of Guatemala, our rainy season normally begins near the end of May. INSIVUMEH says the rain should begin in earnest here in the third or fourth week of May, right on schedule.