While much research has focused on flash droughts in various regions, tropical environments have largely remained understudied. This oversight is significant because these areas are accustomed to frequent, near-daily precipitation, making them susceptible to sudden and severe drying. Nowhere is this vulnerability more evident than in the Caribbean. With many islands having limited access to freshwater reserves, this leaves them exceptionally vulnerable when rapid drying events occur. In the face of a flash drought, these islands often struggle to meet the water demands of their populations, agricultural sectors, and ecosystems.
In a new Journal of Hydrometeorology, authors Craig Ramseyer and Paul Miller fill the gap in understanding tropical flash droughts by examining their prevalence in the pan-Caribbean region using the Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI). The EDDI identifies instances of widespread flash drought “outbreaks” in which substantial portions of the Caribbean experience rapid drying over a 15-day period and sustain this condition for an additional 15 days.
The research reveals that flash droughts in the Caribbean tend to recur in specific regions. These hotspots are primarily located along the Central American, South American, and Greater Antilles coastlines. While the Caribbean did not experience simultaneous, widespread flash droughts within the examined 40-year period from 1981 to 2020, these recurring hot spots highlight the regions most susceptible to this phenomenon.
It is essential for the scientific community and policymakers to acknowledge and address the unique vulnerabilities of such areas to flash droughts, develop effective monitoring systems, and implement adaptation strategies to mitigate their impacts. As climate patterns continue to evolve, understanding and addressing flash droughts in all regions, including tropical ones, will be crucial for building climate-resilient communities worldwide. Funding for this project was partly provided by NIDIS in partnership with the MAPP program.
For more information, contact Courtney Byrd.