Small Island Developing States are at the front lines when it comes to our changing climate and the extreme weather impacts it brings. More intense tropical cyclones such as the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria, rising sea levels, more frequent drought events, and temperature extremes are prevalent and continue to adversely affect Caribbean lives and livelihoods. Researchers have called for greater resilience within individual states and collectively across the Caribbean, especially given the projections that extreme weather variability will continue.
On 25 July 2018, scientists held a meeting of the Caribbean Climate Modelling Consortium to highlight the advances made in the state of knowledge on Caribbean climate variability, change, and impacts. The consortium was launched in Havana, Cuba, in 2003 with the intent to advance climate science for the region using data products generated by the region. The meeting included 32 participants from seven Caribbean countries, including Caribbean researchers and practitioners in the areas of climate dynamics and modeling, meteorology, water, energy, agriculture, tourism, health, economics, policy, engineering, vulnerability and effects, and adaptation and mitigation.
Key Caribbean institutions and centers that investigate climate change and its effects across the region presented research updates and planned activities. Organizers included the Instituto de Meteorología (Cuba), The University of the West Indies at Mona (Jamaica) and Cave Hill (Barbados) campuses, and N.V. Energiebedrijven Suriname. Efforts included the creation of a new regional rainfall data product, generation of new climate projections using models and/or scenarios not previously generated for the region, examination of decadal rainfall variability, model skill, future bush fire potential, and assessment of the relative vulnerability of select locations across the region to extreme rainfall events. Representatives from the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre spoke about funding opportunities available for future Caribbean climate change initiatives, as well as updates to its climate data and information clearinghouse accessible through its website.
Attendees discussed other primary initiatives in the region, including activities under the Caribbean Regional Track of the Pilot Program for Climate Resilience executed by some regional centers since 2015. These activities include the development of climate products and services to complement ongoing initiatives under the Global Framework for Climate Services and the new Fisheries Early Warning and Emergency Response System application for sharing early warnings on risky weather and sea conditions for fishers.
The meeting concluded with discussion of emerging science needs for the region, highlighting the need for exploring (1) loss and damage issues, (2) event attribution, (3) greater incorporation of policy implications to complement advances in climate science, and (4) more impact studies similar to the recent work on the effect of global warming of 1.5°C on Caribbean climate and livelihoods that used livestock, economics, hydropower, and flood risk cases studies. The 5-year research agenda of the consortium was also updated to reflect new questions on climate dynamics, effects, and data priorities.
The full report of the Caribbean Climate Modelling Consortium Meeting is available online.
As extreme weather events increase, researchers and policy makers will benefit from keeping a sharp eye on how a changing climate affects Caribbean states.
—Kimberly A. Stephenson, Department of Life Sciences, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; Tannecia S. Stephenson ([email protected]), Department of Physics, The University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica; and Abel Centella-Artola, Instituto de Meteorología, Havana, Cuba