NWS: Extreme drought expanding and worsening across Micronesia

CNMI still below normal rainfall

Although there have been periods of rains in much of the CNMI during the past weeks, levels of rainfall are still below normal and extreme drought is expanding and worsening across Micronesia, according to the National Weather Service.

In an updated drought information statement released yesterday, NWS said that the experimental drought assessment of the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates that many locations across Micronesia are now in an extreme drought or drought 3 of 4 levels.

“Increasingly dry weather is taking hold across much of Micronesia. Below normal rainfall is already affecting the Mariana Islands, the Republic of Palau, Yap and Chuuk States in the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands,” NWS said.

“There could be a slightly wet month or two from now through late spring 2016, but overall conditions will be much drier than normal as 2016 progresses,” it added.

Areas such as FSM and RMI have declared state of emergencies due to the drought conditions and its impacts.

Koror and Babeldaob in Palau and the states of Yap and Pohnpei in FSM are included in areas under drought level 3 of 4.

For the CNMI, NWS noted that rainfall has been well below normal the past few months and will continue for the next several months.

“Although rainfall has been near normal since March 1, conditions remain very dry with computer models indicating below normal rainfall over the next weeks,” NWS said.

During the first half of March, NWS records that Rota received 1.25 of 3.05 inches of average monthly rain, Tinian 1.30 0f 2.40 inches, and Saipan, 1.16 of 1.93 inches.

“Water supplies need to be monitored very closely and water conservation is highly encouraged. Drying and yellowing of food crops and vegetation will become much worse and grass fires will increase. Water wells on Saipan could see an increase in salinity as the drought progresses,” NWS said.

NWS said that computer models indicate that only a quarter inch to a half inch of rain will fall through the next 10 days on Rota, Tinian, and Saipan, while the far Northern Islands will be better off such as areas near Pagan which could receive one inch of rainfall during the next 10 days.

“Locally higher amounts are possible and catchment equipment should be maintained in good working order,” NWS said, “Longer range models indicate rainfall will be much lower than normal through the next month or two at least.”

The drought follows one of the strongest El Nino events in recorded history that remains entrenched across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.

“The El Nino event has peaked and is slowly weakening for the Pacific Region,” NWS said, “Climate model projections indicate with high confidence that the pattern will persist through late spring, then weaken to ENSO-neutral by the summer months and possibly transition to La Nina status late in the year.”

Frauleine S. Villanueva-Dizon | Reporter
Frauleine Michelle S. Villanueva was a broadcast news producer in the Philippines before moving to the CNMI to pursue becoming a print journalist. She is interested in weather and environmental reporting but is an all-around writer. She graduated cum laude from the University of Santo Tomas with a degree in Journalism and was a sportswriter in the student publication.

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