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El Niño expected to affect the distribution of rainfall in the region

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • May 27, 2014
El Niño expected to affect the distribution of rainfall in the region

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  • Key Messages
  • ENSO conditions
  • Primera season
  • Key Messages
    • According to recent forecasts, there is an increased likelihood of an El Niño event during the July – December 2014 period (Figure 1). During the transition to El Niño conditions (approximately May-August), spatial distribution of rainfall will likely be irregular, and rainfall totals will be below average during the months of June – August, especially in the Pacific areas of Central America and throughout Haiti.

    • In Haiti, crop development is currently average, despite a 5 – 10 day delay in the start of season in some areas of Artibonite, Nord, Nord Est, Grand Anse, and Sud.

    • In the northern region of Guatemala, an early start to the Primera season rains by almost 20 days has favored early planting, especially in the departments of Petén, Alta Verapaz, and Quiché (Figure 2).


    ENSO conditions

    ENSO-neutral conditions continued during April 2014, but with above-average sea surface temperatures (SST) developing over much of the eastern tropical Pacific. As of early May, ENSO model predictions indicate a 60 to 78 percent change of an El Niño event during the June 2014 thru February 2015 period. Most models indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) conditions will transition to El Niño conditions during May – August 2014.

    During the transition to El Niño conditions, spatial distribution of rainfall will likely be irregular, and rainfall totals will be below average during the months of June – August, especially in the Pacific areas of Central America and throughout Haiti. Poor spatial distribution of rains, and below-average totals, could impact Primera crop development in the dry areas of Guatemala (Jalapa, Zacapa, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Baja Verapaz, and Jutiapa departments); Honduras (Olancho, Francisco Morazán, Choluteca, La Paz, and El Paraiso departments); and El Salvador (Chalatenango, La Unión, San Miguel, Morazán, and Cabañas departments). In Haiti, the spring harvest (particularly in Nord Ouest, Artibonite, Nipes, and Ouest departments), and sowing for the fall harvest (August to mid-October) could be also affected by rainfall deficits.


    Primera season

    The Primera season (mid-April to mid-July) started on time throughout the Central America region, except in the areas of Petén, Alta Verapaz, and Huehuetenango in Guatemala, where rains started early. These departments currently have good moisture conditions due to regular rainfall from the end of 2013 to the present, which could benefit the atypically early start of the sowing season in northern Guatemala.  The Ministry of Agriculture began to deliver fertilizers to subsistence farmers across the country.  Normal crop development is reported in the departments of Huehuetenango, Chimaltenango, Sololá, and San Marcos.

    In Haiti, despite a 5 – 10 day delay in the start of the season in some areas of Artibonite, Nord, Nord Est, Grand Anse, and Sud departments, crop development has been normal for the Primera Season (Figure 3). Due the transition to El Nino, the forecast calls for  a significant reduction in rainfall between the end of June and the middle of July in Mole St-Nicolas, Bombardies, Jean-Rabel, Baie de Henne communities in the Nord-Ouest; and Tomazeau, Croix des Bouquets, Ganthier, Carretour and Petion – Ville in Ouest department.

    In Honduras, the Ministry of Agriculture of Honduras (SAG) in coordination with the National Weather Service (SMN) is developing a system to store water in extremely dry areas and irrigate some agricultural areas, as drought prevention measures. The forecast for below-average rains could affect areas of Choluteca, Valle, El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán, La Paz, Ocotepeque; and south of Copán, Lempira, Intibucá, and Comayagua.

    In Nicaragua, the Ministry of Agriculture has recommended that producers of basic grains, mainly corn and beans, plant short-cycle crops. Planting began between May 15 and 20 in the departments of Chinandega, Estelí, Madriz, Nueva Segovia, and Jinotega.

    Figures Early May IRI/CPC ENSO Forecast

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Early May IRI/CPC ENSO Forecast

    Source: IRI/CPC

    onset of rains anomaly

    Figure 2

    Figure 2. Onset of Rains (SOS) Anomaly Map, May 1-5, 2014

    Source: USGS/FEWSNET

    Figure 3.   Water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI), May 1-5, 2014.

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI), May 1-5, 2014.

    Source: USGS/FEWSNET

    FEWS NET’s Seasonal Monitor reports are produced for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Central Asia, and Somalia every 10-to-30 days during the region’s respective rainy season(s). Seasonal Monitors report updates on weather events (e.g., rainfall patterns) and associated impacts on ground conditions (e.g., cropping conditions, pasture and water availability), as well as the short-term rainfall forecast. Find more remote sensing information here.

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