April 11, 2021

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Increase to 41% the areas of the island under drought conditions

The United States Drought Monitor (USDM, in English) reported in its most recent report that the percentage of drought on the island increased to 41%, which is 16 percentage points more than last week.

According to the agency, this percentage is broken down into 23% of the island with areas under atypically dry conditions and 18% under moderate drought. In addition, it estimated the population living in these areas at 529,574, based on the most recent data from the population census.

The hydrologist of the National Weather Service (SNM) in San Juan, Odalys Martínez, explained to The new day that the increase in drought is mainly due to the deficit of rain that has accumulated in the northwest of the island for over 90 days.

“Currently, the northwest area is where we are seeing those dry conditions the most. The rain deficit from 90 days ago fluctuated in that area between 4 and 8 inches of rain. Flow rates are below what would be normal. There is no doubt that we are in a drought event in northwestern Puerto Rico. And it is not surprising that conditions are intensifying and equally expanding“Said the expert in a telephone interview.

The category of “atypically dry” conditions means that the area in question has a water deficit and that the dryness that affects it stops or slows the cultivation of food or grassland. Meanwhile, the moderate drought category means that some grasslands have been damaged, water sources or reservoirs are low, and moderate use of water is required.

Map showing areas under atypically dry conditions in yellow and moderate drought areas in cream. (USDM / NOAA)

Martínez said that it is not ruled out that some area will be included in the near future under severe drought conditions.

At the same time, he warned that soil studies already reflect a decrease in humidity in the east of the country, so it is not ruled out that this quadrant is included in the next drought reports. Currently, only Vieques and Culebra, in that eastern zone, are municipalities under atypically dry conditions.

“Based on the data of the USGS flows and soil moisture, in the east of the island we have begun to see signs – by this I mean the interior, not coastal areas – they are experiencing the dry season”, said the hydrologist.

The expert stressed that the weather forecast for the next three months insists that it is quite likely that the drought conditions on the island could expand or worsen. This forecast is climatic and is focused on rainfall activity.

Meanwhile, the SNM meteorologist Fernanda Ramos warned that the conditions are conducive to the development of forest fires, although for this Friday there is no type of warning.

“The area is favorable (for forest fires), but for example, for today we have no communiqués issued, because we are not observing favorable local conditions for forest fires,” he explained.

The expert added that for today there will be an increase in humidity because the high pressure that prevailed in the Atlantic is weakening and moving away from the local area.

“We have the southeast wind that carries humidity to our area, but it would be in the afternoon,” he anticipated.

The meteorological agency warned, in turn, that there is a high risk of marine currents for the beaches of the central north of the island, although that alert should expire in the afternoon today.

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