Marianas Variety

Last updateThu, 22 Mar 2018 12am







    Tuesday, March 20, 2018-9:12:20A.M.






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Drought expected for Marianas

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Weather experts anticipate a drought to occur in the upcoming months that will last for several months in the Mariana Islands and the rest of Micronesia, which could lead to more grass fires than usual during the dry season.

“Typically what happens in a strong El Niño year, you transition, sometimes rapidly, to a strong La Niña,” said Derrick Williams, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

A La Niña is when the ocean temperatures are cooler than normal in the central equatorial Pacific, Williams said.

“What that does is it causes basically high pressure to come closer to us and prevent a lot of tradewind showers affecting us like they do in January, February, March, all the way through June,” Williams said. “It reduces our rainfall and causes vegetation to dry out and all sorts of havoc.”

Grass fires will be a great concern during the drought, Williams said. The drought is expected to be in full swing during Guam’s dry season the first half of the year. Typically things start to dry up in Guam around early December and the drought could last for five or six months, Williams said.

“People should be aware of it. We’ve been saying this for months and months, even with a strong El Niño there’s a big possibility of a drought coming for the Marianas,” Williams said. “Things are going to dry out pretty severely if we go into a strong La Niña situation.”

If the strong La Niña follows this year’s strong El Niño, Williams said residents should not burn during this time to reduce the risk of starting a fire and also practice common sense, like refraining from tossing cigarette butts around because this could spark a major fire during the drought.

Williams said Guam experienced a strong El Niño in the late 1990s. The year 1997 was very similar to this year and the next year, in 1998, there were more than 1,000 grass fires all across Guam.

“We didn’t really have a water shortage per se,” Williams said of the 1998 dry season. “But there were water limitations in southern Guam because they couldn’t pump enough water south from Ugum.”

The drought is already starting somewhat in Palau and parts of Yap, Williams said.

While six months is considered a long-term drought situation in the Marianas, this does not compare to long-term droughts on the mainland U.S. that can last years. Even if Guam does not get rain for six months, there’s enough water to support the population, Williams said. “We have quite bit of water to support an island of 180,000. In fact, in a normal year we can support the water needs of up to 7 million people,” he said.

At the Mayors Council of Guam meeting on Wednesday Gov. Eddie Calvo said he spoke with the National Weather Service about the drought.

Council president and Agana Heights Mayor Paul McDonald said the government of Guam needs to work on the fire hydrants, because many of them are not working.