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Posted July 05, 2004 by publisher in Cuban Healthcare

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[url=http://www.granma.cu]http://www.granma.cu[/url] | BY RAISA PAGES | Granma International staff writer

In some areas of the country’s eastern region, it hasn’t rained for 20 months • Only a tropical cyclone could recoup water sources in regions east of the island’s central zone, experts say
WHILE we Cubans are accustomed to heat, this summer has felt hotter than usual. When these reporters from Granma International arrived at the Meteorology Institute, located east of Havana Bay, we were not only sweating but had a ton of questions as well.

“The intense drought, which has extended from the eastern provinces to nearly the entire island, is the reason that we are feeling so much heat,” explained Dr. Ramon Perez, director of the National Weather Center.

The electric storms and accompanying rain establish a limit on maximum temperatures by refreshing the environment, so the scant precipitation makes the heat more oppressive for us.

“May is usually the start of the rainy season in Cuba, which lasts until October. During that time, approximately 75% of the annual rainfall is registered. Within that time, the months of May, June, September and October are the rainiest.

“The 2004 rainy season was preceded by very dry months, beginning in November 2003, especially in the central-eastern regions.”

Why such a prolonged absence of rain?

“The presence of a strong anti-cyclone system over the Atlantic Ocean has led to scant cloud and weak sea breezes over Cuba. “The Atlantic’s anti-cyclone is one of the most permanent factors in determining the island’s weather. The surface temperature of this ocean is very warm, as is that of the Caribbean. Between 1971 and 1994, there was a certain chilling of that sea. “This phenomenon of the warming of the Atlantic Ocean happens every so often. Since 1995, the Atlantic has been warmer. In 1940, something similar occurred. The consequences of higher temperatures in the sea surrounding Cuba vary according to the time of the year. They could bring more or less rain, they could influence on the appearance of tropical cyclones or the opposite. “The current behavior of the Atlantic was also noted in 1998. During the April-May-June trimester of that year, there was a similar occurrence of drought, but we had very rainy months in August and September and the country experienced a hydrological recovery.“Up until now, the forecast for coming months is that normal rains will occur during the July-August-September months. During the rainy period between May and October, the month of July is one of the driest.“In the eastern regions, the July precipitation could be lower than normal. Actually, most of our attention, as well as that of the entire country, is focused on the regions from Camagey to the eastern end of the island. The problems are serious.

“In the eastern municipalities of Manat, Puerto Padre, Guam and Moa, more than 20 months have gone by without rain.”

Are we witnessing Cuba’s worst drought?

“It is one of the worst that we have experienced in the last 30 years in a general context,” noted Dr. Braulio Espinella, a researcher at the National Weather Center. “In some provinces and regions, it could be the worst for the last 10 years.

“The tendency is for the current anti-cyclone in the Atlantic to accentuate the drought in the eastern region of the country.”

Why can’t it be affirmed that we are in the middle of a heat wave?

“It is not an applicable concept for a tropical island; rather, it applies to medium- and high-altitude continental regions,” Perez explained.

“The effects of the continental conditions cause temperatures of up to 40 degrees Celsius, in extreme conditions. However, in Cuba the humidity is higher. The sweating mechanism refreshes the body. The sweat extracts heat from the human body and transfers it to the atmosphere.

“The sea breeze refreshes us to a certain degree, preventing temperatures from climbing as high as they do in continental regions. Moreover, tropical electric storms prevent temperatures from rising, although we are experiencing excessively warm months.”

Will the drought continue?

“In real terms, in the eastern regions there is a tendency to drought, according to annual distribution totals. Changes may be observed, such as the propensity to rain more in the winter and less in the summer, which brings consequences of economic and social consideration.

“In our opinion, the most important thing is to try to understand what the precipitation regimen is from one area to the next, how we use the water we have, and to what economic activity we are going to dedicate ourselves in that region to use less water and mitigate prejudices in supplying the population.

“When we have water, we use it unwisely, and the water resources of a nation are strategic; they must be looked after carefully.

“In the Havana provinces, while they have not been subjected to drought with the same intensity as that described in other parts of the country, there are nearly three million inhabitants. A lot of water is used, not just for people’s needs, but also for food production. In these territories, a drought would have very damaging consequences.”

Is the El Nio phenomenon affecting Cuba?

“No, because at this time, the ocean circulation of the Pacific is normal. To explain what is happening, we are analyzing other factors, such as the behavior of the Atlantic Ocean.

Record heat?

“Because of global climate changes since 1951, the average temperature in Cuba has risen between 0.6 and 0.7 degrees Celsius.

“We haven’t yet hit the national record of high temperatures, set April 17, 1999, when 38.8 degrees Celsius was reported in the area of Jucarito, in the eastern province of Granma.

“This past June 21, a record high was recorded at the Casablanca meteorological station, located in the Havana municipality of Regla, where we are now. That day, the thermometers hit 36.2 degrees Celsius at 1:30 p.m. The previous record high was set on May 2, 1923, with 35.8 degrees Celsius. That was reached again on August 26, 1998. Now, six years later, it has been exceeded.

“Actually, we think that this June will be one of the hottest in the last 100 years.

“However, while the temperature variation is interesting, people need to direct their attention to the impact of the drought. Today, we are more than 11 million inhabitants, and the consequences are very important.”

What are the forecasts?

It is anticipated that the month of July will be normal, but it is the least rainy month of the spring, which is why heavy rains are not expected, as we explained. In order to recuperate the water that we need in the eastern region due to the prolonged drought, we could use a tropical cyclone in September or October that would cause heavy precipitation. From the hydrological point of view, it is necessary that we recoup the water that did not fall in the months of May and June. That could only happen with a tropical cyclone.”

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