Bermuda suffers one of the driest years on record

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  • <B>Tomato vines </B>bake under a hot sun on a Devonshire farm yesterday.<B></B>

    Tomato vines bake under a hot sun on a Devonshire farm yesterday.
    (Photo by Mark Tatem)

  • Photo by Glenn Tucker
Water Trucks refill their tanks at the Prospect filling station in Devonshire.

    Photo by Glenn Tucker Water Trucks refill their tanks at the Prospect filling station in Devonshire.

  • Photo by Mark Tatem
Rain dance: Ally Lusher splashes in a puddle as much needed rain pours down on Saturday evening

    Photo by Mark Tatem Rain dance: Ally Lusher splashes in a puddle as much needed rain pours down on Saturday evening

  • Photo by Mark Tatem
Water please: Dry and burnt grass bakes under a hot sun in a Devonshire.

    Photo by Mark Tatem Water please: Dry and burnt grass bakes under a hot sun in a Devonshire.

  • Photo by Mark Tatem
Water please: Dry and burnt grass bakes under a hot sun in a Devonshire.

    Photo by Mark Tatem Water please: Dry and burnt grass bakes under a hot sun in a Devonshire.

  • Photo by Mark Tatem
Water please: Dry and burnt grass bakes under a hot sun in a Devonshire.

    Photo by Mark Tatem Water please: Dry and burnt grass bakes under a hot sun in a Devonshire.


Rainfall statistics

Lower than average rainfall for six consecutive months has led to dry tanks across the Island
As of Sunday the Island had recorded only 13.56in of rain, putting us on course to match 1975, the driest year on record. That year, only 37.14in of rainfall were recorded. The Bermuda Weather Service recorded 0.62in of rain at the airport in May — one of the four driest Mays on record.
Meteorologist Jeff Torgerson said: “Our record dry May was in 1991 with 0.28in recorded at the airport.”
And while June was wetter, it was still far below usual rainfall levels. Only 0.97in of rain was recorded over the month, while the average rainfall for that period is 5.13in.
It continued a six-month streak of lower-than-average rainfall which started in January, when 5.19in of rain was recorded — around one-tenth of an inch less than usual.
Rainfall plummeted to only 1.87in in February, well below the average of 5.01in.
The trend of dry weather continued as only 2.51in of rainfall was reported in March and 2.13in was reported in April — 1.93in and 1.66in below average respectively.
While the trend is concerning, Mr Torgerson said that rainfall in other areas of the Island could be very different.
“Since our official rainfall measurements are taken here at the airport, and we quite often observe significant rains over other parts of the Island that miss our rain gauge, it stands to reason that other unofficial measurements could be significantly higher than what we have on record,” he said.

Crops are drying out and water truckers are struggling to meet demand as the Islands streak of dry weather continues.

According to the Bermuda Weather Service, the Island has so far recorded only 13.56in of rain as of Sunday, well below the usual year-to-date average of 27.06in. And while June usually marks the beginning of a seasonal upswing in rainfall, less than an inch of rain was recorded last month around a fifth of average rain for the month.

Farmer Carlos Amaral said crops of potato, banana, pumpkin and sweet corn, which are not usually irrigated, are feeling the brunt of the dry weather, but even well irrigated crops are being affected.

“With dry conditions, birds tend to turn to corn, tomato and melon crops as a source of moisture to sustain them,” Mr Amaral said.

“In one watermelon field, over 80 percent of the crop was lost to crow damage. They puncture the fruit to obtain the moisture and render the fruit unmarketable.

“Some farmers that are on Watlington Water for irrigation purposes are opting not to irrigate due to the cost of the water needed to supply the crop outweighing the return.”

He said while the drought will impact his business, he described it as a part of the job.

“It obviously effects our bottom line, but that is the nature of the beast with this line of work. It is out of our control.

“My father would say: ‘Plough it up, lets try again. If you don't plant, you cannot reap.'”

“I would joke: ‘You mean roll the dice again'.”

Russ Ford, president of the Bermuda Water Truckers Association, said that the demand for water has skyrocketed over the last month, leading to customers waiting as long as three weeks for water.

“For us thus far, as far as the water situation is concerned the lack of rainfall has increased demand by at least five fold, and right now customers are waiting up to two weeks,” he said. “The demand is far outstripping the supply.

“We area all working as long as we can get the water. The hours have been decreased because of continuing work at Tynes Bay [Reverse Osmosis Plant].

Mr Ford praised Government has begun producing more water in St George's, and said he was confident once all of Government's sites are completed, water will be much more readily available, allowing them to better meet demand.

Until then, he called for customers to conserve water, and to check their tanks frequently to avoid being left waiting for water with an empty tank.

While the unusually dry weather has made an impact on the Island, Government Hydrogeologist Mark Rowe said the lack of rain may not affect the Island's water lens.

“A deficit in rainfall may not affect the lens until 18 months later, and if it is counteracted by a subsequent surplus of rainfall, it may not affect the lens at all,” he said. “This present drought may or may not affect the lens next year.

“Offsetting any potential impact of a drought is the fact that abstraction of groundwater by the Bermuda Government has been reduced significantly over the last ten years.

“There is currently the potential to produce plenty of water in Bermuda, the challenge lies with delivering it.”

According to the Bermuda Weather Service, there is no single reason for the unusually dry weather over the last few months.

Jeff Torgerson, a Meteorologist with the service, said: “The synoptic weather patterns influence our day-to-day and week-to-week precipitation, like the proximity of moisture-laden low pressure systems or the speed with which frontal systems pass across the Island.

“We've simply been missed more than usual by significant areas of shower activity in the region. Luck can certainly play a role when you're looking for a good, drenching shower at a particular location.”

On an average year, he explained that May and April are usually the driest months, with rainfall becoming more frequent in June.

“April/May is typically a transition period between the influence from wetter wintertime fronts and lows and summertime tropical and subtropical rain events,” he explained.

“These two months are climatologically the driest for Bermuda, while June begins the wettest five-month period of the year.

“We can only hope that we can soon break the trend of getting ‘missed' by significant passing rain events.”

This week, however, the Island looks to continue it's streak of dry weather. While forecasts suggest there could be a few scattered showers today and tomorrow, the rest of the week is expected to remain humid, but dry.

CONSERVATION TIPS:

With water in high demand, the public is being asked to conserve water.

A few simple ways to save include:

l checking your water tank and plumbing fixtures to ensure they don't have any leaks;

l when washing your car or bike, use a bucket of water rather than a hose;

l take quick showers or, if you take baths, limit how much you fill the tub.

l when you wash laundry, make sure to wash full loads, or make sure the washer is set to the appropriate load size;

l don't let water overflow or keep running when not in use;

l reduce the amount of water used in the toilet by placing a piece of impermeable stone in the tank;

In the long term, you can save water by investing in a “grey water” recycling system, which uses collected water from sinks, showers and bathtubs for toilets and outdoor landscaping.

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Published Jul 5, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 5, 2011 at 8:34 am)

Bermuda suffers one of the driest years on record

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