Professor of atmospheric physics at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Anthony Chen, is calling for more research to be done on climate change in the Caribbean especially in forecasting and assessing impacts on the region.
“More research needs to be done, especially in the regional models,” says Chen. “We need to find out what are the major factors causing temperature increases in the Caribbean and we need to use a statistical downscaling model that is designed for the Caribbean. The one that we use is really designed for temperate climates.”
Chen is one of the authors who wrote the about climate change issues in the Caribbean for the recently published Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Fourth Assessment Report.
In a presentation made at World Meteorological Day (March 23) Chen pointed out that the global climate models used to predict climate change are large scale, and they “do not see small islands like Jamaica.” He also said that there are not many peer reviewed publications on sea level rise in the Caribbean, which are sources of information for the IPCC.
He was proud however that for the first time in the IPCC assessment there was a section on small islands, but he noted that only temperature and precipitation changes were considered in making the climate change predictions. Nothing definite, he said, was reported about sea level rise or hurricanes in the region.
The IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) will present its predictions on Caribbean climate in summer 2007.
According to the AR4 predictions, all Caribbean islands are very likely to warm during the century but the warming is likely to be smaller than the global average. Professor Chen added that temperature data from the Piarco International Airport in Trinidad show temperature increases of a little more than 2 degrees Celsius. Data from the Jamaican Met office show that both maximum and minimum temperatures in the region were high.
“We can be certain about temperature changes for the Caribbean because all the models show increases. The extent will depend on the (greenhouse gas) emissions,” he reported.
With regard to precipitation, he said rainfall in the Greater Antilles is likely to decrease in June to August and December to March. He was unable to say what would happen in the other islands.
Professor Chen also mentioned findings on hurricanes from 20km global climate model run conducted in Japan. This model concluded that the North Atlantic hurricane frequency will increase during the century, but that this was recommended as an area for more research. It was also noted that although increases in areas affected by drought are likely, it is also likely that intense tropical cyclone activity will increase during the century.
Predictions about sea level rise were vague. According to the AR4, climate models indicate that during the century sea levels rise will continue around the islands, but the rise will not be geographically uniform. There are no regional models for sea level rise for the Caribbean.