Mexico, Central America, & the Caribbean: Extreme water deficits expected along Mexico’s Pacific Coast

28 May 2019

THE BIG PICTURE
The 12-month forecast ending January 2020 indicates deficits of varying intensity in most of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula and throughout the central and southern regions of the country. Anomalies are expected to be extreme to exceptional in a pocket of northwestern Baja; pockets along the Pacific Coast in Nayarit, Guerrero, and Chiapas; near Merida in the Yucatan; and southern Tamaulipas on the Gulf.

Moderate deficits are forecast in the north from southeastern Chihuahua across central Coahuila, and some pockets of moderate surplus in western Chihuahua.

In Central America, moderate to severe deficits are forecast for Guatemala, Belize, western Honduras, El Salvador, western Nicaragua, and western Panama. Moderate surpluses are expected in a pocket on Nicaragua’s central Caribbean Coast. Severe deficits are forecast for Haiti, moderate to severe deficits in Cuba, and moderate deficits in Dominican Republic.

FORECAST BREAKDOWN
The 3-month maps (below) show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The forecast through July indicates that intense deficits observed in the prior three months in Mexico will downgrade considerably. Severe to extreme deficits are, however, expected in Baja, particularly in the south, and trailing along the Pacific Coast from Sinaloa along the southern Gulf of California through Nayarit, Michoacán, and Guerrero. Severe deficits are forecast for Tabasco on the southern Gulf of Mexico, and moderate deficits elsewhere around the Gulf of Mexico. Moderate deficits will emerge in the north in western Sonora, and some surpluses in Zacatecas. Moderate deficits are expected in Guatemala, El Salvador, Haiti, and western Cuba, and moderate surpluses in southeastern Nicaragua and other small pockets of Central America.

From August through October, deficits will downgrade along Mexico’s central Pacific Coast but will intensify in southern states, with extreme to exceptional anomalies between the southern Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific in Tabasco and Chiapas. In the north, moderate surpluses will emerge from eastern Sonora into western Chihuahua; deficits will retreat from southern Baja, but severe deficits are forecast for the northern half of the peninsula. Deficits will intensify in Guatemala, El Salvador, western Honduras, and western Nicaragua. Surpluses will increase along the Caribbean coast in Honduras and Nicaragua and will emerge in Panama. Intense deficits are expected to emerge in Jamaica, deficits in Haiti will become severe, and moderate deficits will increase in Dominican Republic.

For the final three months – November 2019 through January 2020 – generally mild anomalies are forecast for northern Mexico and deficits in the south will downgrade, leaving primarily moderate to severe anomalies. Deficits will downgrade in Central America as well, and nearly normal conditions are forecast in the Caribbean.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

IMPACTS
Low water levels in the Panama Canal prompted this year’s fifth draft restriction adjustment for ships last month. The restrictions have caused an estimated $15 million in economic losses, as ships need to carry less cargo to increase buoyancy. The vice president of environment and water for the Canal Authority said that at four to five months of nearly no precipitation, this season is the driest in the Canal’s history.

In the last two years, farmers in eastern Guatemala and western Honduras have seen near-total crop losses due to drought, 2018 having been one of the worst years in recent history. Historically, residents in eastern Guatemala have migrated seasonally to Honduras to work in the coffee fields but the regional drought has cut coffee production, and thus the traditional regional migration routes. Malnutrition, food insecurity, and disease have reportedly increased dramatically in the last two years, leading people of the region to flee northward to places like the United States in search of opportunities.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme warned last month that droughts and heavy rains have destroyed more than half of the maize and bean crops of subsistence farmers in the Central American Dry Corridor. Regional governments estimated that 2.2 million people have suffered crop losses since last year, and this year’s El Niño phenomenon, forecast to last until October, is expected to hamper grain sowing during the first crop cycle.

Wildfires fueled by hot, dry weather smoked out Mexico City, prompting city officials to declare an environmental emergency due to dangerously bad air quality this month.

NOTE ON ADMINISTRATIVE BOUNDARIES
There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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