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Why has it been so cold in Hati in recent months?

  • March 20, 2024
  • 12
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“It is very rare that we observe such temperatures in Port-au-Prince,” meteorologist Rudolphe Homère Victor reveals to AyiboPost

Read this piece in English

During the month of February of this year, D. Joseph still remembers these evenings marked by unusual coldness, these currents of fresh air which infiltrated his room, freezing him despite his thick blankets.

“These episodes forced me to change my bathing habits,” the young woman reports to AyiboPost.

In fact, more than a dozen cold fronts swept through Haiti from November to February. According to meteorologist Rudolphe Homere Victor, the temperature sometimes dropped to 17°C.

“It is very rare that we observe such temperatures in Port-au-Prince,” reveals the specialist.

In fact, more than a dozen cold fronts swept through Haiti from November to February.

In general, cold fronts remained over the North Shore. But this year, they reached much lower latitudes, analysis at AyiboPost Marcelin Esterlin, general coordinator of the Haiti Hydrometeorological Unit (UHM).

“In the past, they fluctuated between 20 and 23°C. This time, they went so low that they impacted the whole country,” Esterlin continues.

A cold front is a boundary between warm and cold air masses. When they meet, the colder, denser, heavier air mass pushes under the warmer air mass, forcing it to rise into the atmosphere.

Clouds, precipitation, and sometimes thunderstorms accompany cold fronts, causing a drop in temperature and an increase in atmospheric pressure. These fronts can last two or three days, according to specialists.

Read also: The air in P-au-P can make you sick. Here are the risk areas.

In Delmas, where she lives, D. Joseph describes to AyiboPost the changes in her habits and how she adapted to the cool temperatures of the capital.

“I went almost two days without swimming. I just dabbed myself with a towel on a few essential parts of my body,” she emphasizes, with irony.

After three days, when she found her situation uncomfortable, D. Joseph finally opted for hot baths as a last resort.

In the past, they fluctuated between 20 and 23°C. This time, they went so low that they impacted the entire country.

Pyram Steevenson, aged 25, also experienced these cold episodes.

“Although many consider me cold-resistant, I had to space out my bathroom sessions. I only washed once a day in the bathroom of my house,” he reveals.

Living in Gonaïves, Pyram explains that, in February, his mother was sometimes forced to wear long-sleeved t-shirts, while his brother and sister opted for sweaters.

Read also: El Niño attacks farmers in Haiti

The period of cold fronts generally begins in November, when polar air masses move from Greenland and the poles towards North America, and ends in March, explains Marcelin Esterlin.

“As Haiti is located below North America, about 1000 meters from Miami, these cold air masses affect us,” explains the meteorologist.

Something has changed though.

“With climate change, these cold fronts descend much lower and affect us more,” adds Esterlin.

Haiti enjoys a hot and humid tropical climate. The monthly average maximum and minimum are 29.1°C and 18.5°C respectively, with an average precipitation pattern of 1545 mm.

The period of cold fronts generally begins in November, when polar air masses move from Greenland and the poles towards North America, and ends in March.

The country presents several microclimates due to its morphological characteristics and variations in rainfall and temperature, according to data from the National Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change (PNA), established by the Ministry of the Environment (ME) in 2023.

The country, like many others around the world, is affected by the vagaries of climate change.

Although he does not affirm that Haiti is undergoing serious climatic disturbances, Kénel Délisca, doctor in physical geography and specialist in climatology, affirms that, according to his analyses, the temperature of the country has increased compared to the climatic normal of 1971 -2000.

“Over the past two decades, the temperature has increased by around 1°C compared to the reference period 1971-2000. These are decades much warmer than the previous thirty years,” analyzes Esterlin.

Read also: Haiti under the clutches of climate change

Defined by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), a climatic normal is the arithmetic average calculated for each month of the year from climatic data recorded over a period of thirty years.

The Haiti Hydrometeorological Unit (UHM), created in 2015 following the unification of the National Meteorological Center (CNM) and the National Water Resources Service (SNRE), is responsible for monitoring, weather observation and forecasting in Haiti, under the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Rural Development (MARNDR).

Over the past two decades, the temperature has increased by about 1°C compared to the reference period 1971-2000. These are decades much warmer than the previous thirty years.

However, according to Marcelin Esterlin, general coordinator of the institution since 2018, serious structural deficiencies and a lack of financial resources prevent them from accomplishing their mission.

“Until now, the state has never allocated sufficient funds to allow the institution to carry out regular data collection campaigns in Haiti,” Esterlin reveals to AyiboPost. “Apart from salaries, the state contributes absolutely nothing.”

Marcelin adds that even for office equipment, the institution must make a request to the Ministry of Agriculture, which can take three to four months to be satisfied.

“Sometimes we have to seek support from non-governmental organizations,” he laments.

Meteorological data makes it possible, among other things, to size public infrastructure such as bridges or roads, to establish forecast models, and to study the behavior of the atmosphere and climate change.

Until now, the state has never allocated sufficient funds to allow the institution to carry out regular data collection campaigns in Haiti.

Stations equipped to measure pressure, humidity and rainfall have been installed in several cities across the country, including Cap-Haïtien, Jérémie, Jacmel, Les Cayes and in certain municipalities of Port-au-Prince. However, recurring maintenance problems have seriously compromised daily data collection, according to the coordinator.

“These recurring gaps hinder our ability to analyze the climate with certainty, in a scientific and technical manner,” regrets Esterlin.

The insecurity in the country also affects the state body. Employees living in provincial towns have abandoned their jobs due to roads blocked by gangs. Out of 59 employees, only 46 are still on the job today, including only four meteorologists, including the general coordinator of the institution.

Par Junior Legrand

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Junior Legrand