Jamaica is suffering though its hottest summer, with huge temperature increases compared to last year. The Meteorology Service of Jamaica says these punishing heat stresses are a direct result of the impacts of climate change.
The Met Service says 10 of the 14 Parishes are feeling the severe impacts of droughts, with St. Mary and St. Elizabeth experiencing the worst of it. There have also been a few reported cases of bush fires across some eastern parishes because of the prolonged dry spells and heat.
“Globally, the last 16 years have been recorded as the warmest on record, with the last 5 recording the highest temperatures,” said Glenroy Brown, Climate Service Specialist in the Climate Branch of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica. “We can see this trend in Jamaica even now as we compare temperatures from this year, to last year and the year prior.”
Brown says temperatures have risen by at least 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to last summer, and that we can expect warmer and dryer days from July to September. On June 22, all-time temperature records were set for that month, with Kingston hitting 39 degrees Celsius.
Last month’s Preliminary Meteorological Impact Report notes that current and projected environmental conditions point to a warmer and dryer Jamaica for the rest of the summer. The Met Service predicts that temperatures are likely to be hotter than normal, with near normal to below normal rainfall, based on the latest findings from the seasonal climate forecast model.
The Met Service recommends that Jamaicans brace themselves for an increase in heat-stress related impacts, frequent bush fires and reduced water inflows in the nation’s water storage facilities and reservoirs from now until the end of September.
Some climate scientists suggest that global warming is promoting atmospheric changes that favour the formation of the kind of persistent high-pressure system that has driven up temperatures this summer. The Met Service notes that this and the presence of Sahara dust and reduced cloud cover has contributed to the increased temperatures locally.
All relevant agencies are advising Jamaicans to take precautionary measures to reduce heat exposure, and the severe impacts it can have to the body if not hydrated. The Ministry of Health has already issued warnings, noting that the most common heat related illnesses that people can expect are heat exhaustion, heat rash, heat cramps, and heat strokes.
Jamaicans are being urged to stay drink plenty of water, especially before and after strenuous activities. It is also recommended that people wear light-weight, light coloured and loose-fitting clothes.