Flooded street in Dorado, Puerto Rico. Photo: LaShawn Pagan.
Puerto Rico's years of unseasonal rain
La Shawn Pagán
7th January 2014
The world's weather news is dominated by storms in Europe and extreme cold in North America. But as La Shawn Pagán reports, Puerto Rico has just had 85 inches of rain in one month, and its three wettest years ever,
This isn't the norm, winter isn't supposed to be rainy - I mean we have a few scattered showers, but not like this.
The holiday months in the tropics are usually filled with days of cool 75F degree weather, cool sea breeze that caresses your skin, perfect sunny days that can be used to go either visit the beach, surf at your favorite break, or a hike down one of the local trails.
But in 2013, rain has caused locals to scratch their heads and wonder what is going on, while experts say this is the direct result of global warming.
Earning a spot in the list of 'wettest years', The National Meteorological Service of Puerto Rico has registered at least 85.0 inches of rain in December alone in Puerto Rico.
Part of a pattern
And this is part of a pattern of heavy rain that is causing widespread consternation. According to Meteorologist Luis Rosa, 2013 is the third wettest year for the island. In first place is 2010, which registered 89.5 inches of rain, and in second place is 2011, with 87.8 inches.
Rafael Méndez Tejeda, the director of the Investigative Laboratory of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico in Carolina, says this is a result of severe weather displacement due to atmospheric contamination.
"With the amount of contamination that we have sent into the atmosphere, we have overcharged it with pollution, causing what is known as global warming."
Other examples of weather disruption experienced in the island in 2013 include the extended heat wave during the entire month of September, the increased and unusual heavy rainfall in July, and lastly the re-emergence of rainfall in December.
According to Tejeda, these extreme weather conditions in the Caribbean are connected to the heavy snows in the US and Canada - Caribbean evaporation feeds the storm systems that make their way north, and form snow when they meet the cold Arctic air streams.
While usually the 'winter' months for Puerto Rico are dry, if global warming continues to affect us this dramatically, we might have to get used to wet Decembers, says Tejeda:
"We're talking about the last six years, in which the winter months have turned into the rain season. This isn't the norm, winter isn't supposed to be rainy - I mean we have a few scattered showers, but not like this."
Since October, countless numbers of flash flood warnings have been issued from the National Weather Center. In December, landslides damaging roads and residential areas have occurred in the metropolitan municipalities of Bayamón and Dorado.
Additionally, there have been reports of continuous floods in neighborhoods after several days of nonstop rain.
In response, the aqueduct and sewerage authority of Puerto Rico (Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados - AAA) has begun to open the gates of the dams that lead to rivers La Plata and Carraizo every day, in an effort to ease flooding.
"This is not typically done in December", said the spokesperson for AAA. "This has been a month of a lot of rain", she added - noting that while the gates for the respective dams are opened at a regular basis, it has never been necessary to do so during the last month of the year.
The heavy rain fall is not expected to ease up any time soon. The forecast is that of a mostly wet month that will spill over until February - months where only scattered showers can - in 'normal' conditions - be expected.
La Shawn Pagán is a freelance journalist based in Puerto Rico, who works extends across Latin America and the Caribbean.
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