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Regional Drought Update Date
April 7, 2022
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Drought Status Update

Drought Update for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands


Update Status:

NIDIS and its partners will issue these updates every two months.

Beneficial rains were observed across the local islands during the month of February. As a result, drought improvements were observed across portions of the local islands. 

View this update in Spanish.

 

 

Key Points

  • Puerto Rico Conditions: Although abnormally dry (D0) conditions still persist across most of the southern coast of Puerto Rico, there has been a one- to two-category drought improvement across most of the island since early February, due to an anomalously wet February (Figure 1). For example, San Juan Luis Munoz Marin Airport has seen 15.29 inches of rain since February 1, or nearly 300% of normal. 
  • U.S. Virgin Islands Conditions: While conditions have improved on all three islands since February, drought still remains across the Territories with severe drought (D2) conditions in St. Croix and moderate drought (D1) conditions in St. Thomas and St. John (Figure 1). 
  • Puerto Rico Impacts: Areas in southern Puerto Rico are experiencing dry conditions, with some impacts on crops and livestock. Dry pastures have led some ranchers to turn to hay and supplements to nourish cattle.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands Impacts: Vegetation and trees are still showing signs of distress. Livestock farmers and horse ranchers are buying hay. The vegetation is not bouncing back due to a lack of moisture in the soil. Ponds and collection containers have not been fully recharged.
  • Looking Ahead: Based on the rainfall forecast by the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum, there are equal chances of observing either above- or below-normal rainfall. The climatological onset of the wet season in late April should lead to continued improving conditions, even with near-normal rainfall.
  • For weather information specific to your area, please monitor products issued by the National Weather Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Current Conditions
U.S. Drought Monitor Conditions: Caribbean | April 5, 2022

U.S. Drought Monitor map for Puerto Rico, as of April 5, 2022. The U.S. Drought Monitor is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. 

 

U.S. Drought Monitor map for the U.S. Virgin Islands, as of April 5, 2022. The U.S. Drought Monitor is updated each Thursday to show the location and intensity of drought across the country. 

U.S. Drought Monitor Categories
Value Map Hex Color
D0 - Abnormally Dry #ffff00
D1 - Moderate Drought #ffcc99
D2 - Severe Drought #f5ad3d
D3 - Extreme Drought #ff0000
D4 - Exceptional Drought #660000
Main Stats
4.7%
of Puerto Rico is in moderate drought (D1)
34%
of Puerto Rico is abnormally dry (D0)
Severe Drought
observed in St. Croix

Drought Conditions

  • Puerto Rico: 34% of Puerto Rico is classified by the U.S. Drought Monitor as being abnormally dry (D0), while nearly 5% of the island is classified as being in a moderate drought (D1).
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: Drought conditions vary in the U.S. Virgin Islands, with moderate drought (D1) in St. Thomas and St. John and severe drought (D2) conditions in St. Croix.
Two U.S. Drought Monitor maps of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands from February 1, 2022 (top) and April 5, 2022 (bottom).
Figure 1. Nearly all of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have seen one-category to two-category improvement in the U.S. Drought Monitor classification since February 1, 2022 (top) compared to the most recent classification on April 5, 2022 (bottom). Source: National Drought Mitigation Center.

Sector Impacts

General Conditions

  • Puerto Rico: Since the previous drought update in February, conditions have significantly improved in nearly all areas previously affected by drought (Vieques, northwest Puerto Rico, and areas on the central southern coast). Moderate drought (D1) conditions are now confined to the southern coast municipalities of Salinas, Guanica, Yauco, and Guayama. No other parts of the island are in drought.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: Since the previous drought update in February, drought conditions have improved on all three islands due to increased precipitation. However, drought still remains across the Territories with severe drought (D2) conditions in St. Croix and moderate drought (D1) conditions in St. Thomas and St. John. Intermittent rainfall Territory-wide is not fully recharging ponds and collection containers due to increased temperatures and intermittent high winds.

Agricultural Conditions

Puerto Rico:

  • Pasture: Conditions in the southwestern coast of Puerto Rico are reportedly causing dry pastures. A rancher in the coastal region of Lajas describes that the compounding effect of heat, winds, and little rain have caused limited growth and drying in his pasture.
  • Livestock: In some areas of southern Puerto Rico, dry pastures are causing ranchers to rely on hay and liquid supplements to nourish their livestock. This can be financially challenging for ranchers, who express that it is not cost-effective to purchase hay and liquid feed. In some cases, ranchers are choosing to sell cattle to compensate for financial losses. 

St. Thomas: 

Poultry farmers indicated that due to sporadic rain, they are beginning to prepare to purchase water as they use cisterns for watering chickens. Poultry producers also stated that increased heat is impacting egg production. Farmers are reporting windy weather, which is contributing to a lack of moisture in the soil. In St. Thomas, ponds have not filled completely due to a lack of rain. Specialty and row crop farmers are reporting that greens, including lemongrass, kale, and peppers, are burning due to heat, and orchards that require more water are only being watered every other day. Most are employing conservation methods, including increasing the use of drip irrigation methods, and are also working to increase the storage capacity of water.

St. John:

Farmers are reporting that they are watering both early and late to conserve water. Many are using mulch to help retain water in the soil. Farmers are implementing immediate conservation methods including crop rotation and alternating watering schedules to maximize water resources. Farmers also indicated that the need for increased irrigation and Smart Technology will help them to combat drought and potentially to increase production. Drone footage from Rafe Boulon on March 28 documenting drought conditions on St. John can be found here

St. Croix:

Farmers who have been purchasing water are concerned due to the high economic impacts of costs related to water. Farmers of all sizes are reporting sporadic rain that has perked vegetation but that hot, dry weather is still affecting their ability to retain soil moisture. One producer reported purchasing 12,000 gallons of water per week, which will cause further economic distress if drought continues. Long-term drought indicators are creating an urgent need for irrigation systems to be deployed in the fields. Poultry farmers are reporting increased purchases for water in cisterns and decreased egg production due to heat. The VI Department of Agriculture (VIDA) also reported that, in St. Croix, 1,312,707 gallons of water were delivered to the agricultural community in February, and 1,041,290 gallons were delivered in March. VIDA also reported that both horse and livestock ranchers are procuring hay at this time. To address the economic impacts of feed, and as drought conditions continue, livestock farmers are also planning mitigation efforts to continue to rotate livestock to feed them.  

Rainfall Surplus and Deficits

  • Puerto Rico: Over the past 90 days, rainfall surpluses have occurred across nearly all of Puerto Rico, with the exception of the northwest tip. Areas in and around the San Juan metro area and around Mayaguez have seen surpluses in excess of 10 inches. (Figure 2). Elsewhere, surpluses between 2 and 6 inches have been observed. Through April 5, the 18.02 inches of rainfall at San Juan (~200% of normal) makes this the second wettest start of the year on record, dating back to 1899. Only 2020 was wetter.
  • U.S. Virgin Islands: Through April 5, 2022, the year to date (YTD) rainfall at Cyril King Airport in St. Thomas has been 7.53 inches. This is about 110% of normal. The 8.01 inches of rain YTD at Henry Rohlsen Apt. in St. Croix is about 150% of normal, and the 9th wettest on record. Improvements to the ongoing severe drought should be coming soon.
90-day departure from normal precipitation for Puerto Rico, through April 5, 2022.
Figure 2. The 90-day rainfall departures from normal across Puerto Rico. Note the anomalies of 10+ inches in and around the San Juan metro area and near Mayaguez. Only the northwest tip of the island has seen rainfall deficits since January 1, 2022. Source: National Weather Service.

Soil Moisture Conditions in Puerto Rico

The latest soil moisture data from the Puerto Rico Agricultural Water Management (PRAGWATER) indicates dry soil conditions persisting across the southern regions of Puerto Rico from Arroyo westward to Cabo Rojo, a few sections in the eastern interior, central and interior, and most of the northwest from Arecibo westward to Rincon and Mayaguez (Figures 3 and 4).

Root zone soil saturation across Puerto Rico as of April 3, 2022.
Figure 3. The latest assessment of soil saturation for Puerto Rico, as of April 3, 2022. Soil saturation: 1=Saturated. Source: PRAGWATER.
Crop stress factor for Puerto Rico as of April 3, 2022. Crop Stress Coefficient: 1=No Stress, 0=Extreme Stress.
Figure 4. Latest assessment of crop stress factor for Puerto Rico, as of April 3, 2022. Crop Stress Coefficient: 1=No Stress, 0=Extreme Stress. Source: PRAGWATER.

Streamflow Conditions in Puerto Rico

The 28-day average streamflow from the U.S. Geological Survey river gauge network indicates most of the streamflows are running near normal. However, some rivers along the eastern interior, central, and southeast Puerto Rico show values below normal or well below normal (Figure 5).   

28-day average streamflow conditions across Puerto Rico, according to U.S. Geological Survey streamgages.
Figure 5. Current 28-day average streamflow for Puerto Rico. Valid April 3, 2022. Source: U.S. Geological Survey.

Groundwater Conditions

Well levels are below normal to well below normal along the south-central and southeastern sections of Puerto Rico, and below normal in north-central Puerto Rico (Figure 6). 

Groundwater levels for the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico from the U.S. Geological Survey network.
Figure 6. Groundwater levels for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Source: U.S. Geological Survey.

Outlooks and Impacts

Rainfall Outlook

Based on the expected precipitation forecast by Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CariCOF), there are equal chances of observing either above- or below-normal rainfall for the April to June time period. Nevertheless, the climatological onset of the wet season occurs in late April and May (Figure 7).

Latest extended precipitation outlook for the Caribbean, valid for April to June 2022.
Figure 7. Latest extended precipitation outlook for the Caribbean, valid for April to June 2022. Source: Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum.

    For More Information

    Prepared By

    Odalys Martinez
    NWS Weather Forecast Office – San Juan

    Meredith Muth
    NOAA/National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS)

    William Gould, Nora Álvarez-Berríos, Eva Holupchinski, and Luis Alexis Rodriguez Cruz
    USDA Caribbean Climate Hub, USFS International Institute of Tropical Forestry

    Brad Rippey
    USDA Office of the Chief Economist

    Héctor J. Jiménez
    Office of Climatology, University of Puerto Rico

    Special Thanks

     

    Puerto Rico Reporting Input: Thanks to the Agricultural Extension Service, College of Agricultural Sciences, University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez. Special thanks to Eric Harmsen, Professor of Agricultural Engineering UPR-M; Prof. José L Zamora, Agricultural Extension Service, UPR-M; and M. Carlo.

    USVI Reporting Input: Several individuals contributed to this report, and we are acknowledging the following for their support, including the faculty, staff and collaborators of the UVI Physics Program, UVI Etelman Observatory, UVI Agricultural Experiment Station, VI Department of Agriculture, UVI Caribbean Green Technology Center, as well as the USDA Office Chief Economist, National Parks Service in St. Croix, USDA Farm Service Agency, Coral Bay Community Council, and the many field staff, volunteers, drought reporters, and farmers from across the territory.  

    About This Report

    This drought update is issued in partnership between the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the University of the Virgin Islands. The purpose of the update is to communicate a potential area of concern for drought expansion and/or development within Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands based on recent conditions and the upcoming three-month forecast. 

    NIDIS and its partners will issue these updates every two months. Subscribe for these U.S. Caribbean drought updates here.