Weather forecasters predict the next six months will be warmer and wetter than usual in Cayman and across much of the region, due in large part to the continuing El Niño warming the Pacific Ocean, according to the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum.
December 2015 was one of the wettest on record, with more than 5 inches of rain through the month, according to the Cayman Islands Weather Service. The 30-year average for December rainfall is about 2.8 inches.
Last year’s rainfall patterns were almost the opposite of an average year, with very little rain in July through October, and heavy rains in November that almost doubled the 30-year average.
Predictions from the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum call for higher than normal rainfall over the coming months in Cayman, Cuba, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. Regional forecasters predict less rain in the leeward and southern Caribbean islands, continuing a drought that has left much of the area dry over the past year.
Forecasters with the Climate Forum say the lower rainfall in the eastern and southern Caribbean is due directly to El Niño. For Cayman and its neighbors, reduced winds in the upper atmosphere will likely lead to stronger rainstorms and increased rainfall over the coming months.
Most of the region will likely see temperatures higher than normal, according to forecasters, with the eastern Caribbean states seeing the warmest temperatures. Cayman will likely see above-normal temperatures for the first six months of 2016, the Climate Forum notes.
According to data from Cayman’s weather service, 2015 was not a typical year for rainfall in the region. September and October are typically the rainiest months for the islands, with a 30-year average of more than 8 inches of rain in each month. But last year only a fraction of the expected rain was recorded in those two months.
Last year was the driest July on record, with 1.6 inches of rain, far from the average 5.8 inches the islands normally see, according to rainfall data dating back to 1957 from the Weather Service. August did not quite set a record for the least rainfall.
About 1.3 inches fell in August 2015, the second-driest August on record after 2009, when only about half an inch of rain fell during the month. The average rainfall for August is about 5.9 inches.
The trend turned around for November and December, typically drier months, with almost double the average rainfall for each month.
November had more than 11 inches of rain and December had more than 5 inches. Despite the late rains, Cayman is almost 10 inches of rainfall below the 30-year annual average of about 56 inches per year.