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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Mar. 26) - The Marshall Islands’ most serious drought in five years didn’t get under way until February and weather forecasters say that the current El Niño is already weakening and weather conditions are moving back to normal. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that some effects of El Niño — drought in Micronesia — occur during the year after El Niño, reports University of Guam and University of Hawaii El Niño watch programs.

Water usage in Majuro is currently being rationed to just three days per week, with further rationing planned if the island’s reservoir level drops below 15 million gallons.

Weather conditions in January and February showed that warmer than usual sea surface temperatures — the hallmark of an El Niño event — were beginning to drop, the U.S. weather forecasters report. They also said that this year’s El Niño is much smaller than the 1997-98 El Niño that caused a six-month drought with virtually no rain in the Marshall Islands.

Rainfall in the Marshall Islands is predicted to start getting back to normal in the July-September period, when it is supposed to be 90-95 percent of the normal range.

U.S. weather forecasters report that islands south of six degrees in the Marshall Islands are getting about 75 percent of their normal rainfall now, but that islands north of eight degrees are going to be the hardest hit by the drought, with rain expected to be 60 percent below the norm during March and April.

In Majuro, it’s been dry since Feb. 22, the last day there was more than one inch of rain. Since that time, Majuro had received only trace rainfall — less than half an inch, according to the Majuro Weather Station.

January’s 8.62 inches was just slightly above the norm, while February’s 9.90 inches was three inches more than the average. But March is showing the El Niño-inspired drought is in full swing.

Still the March total of just 0.46 inches isn’t anywhere close to a record low. The record low rainfall for the month of March was set in 1992 when just 0.15 of an inch fell.

March 26, 2003

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com 

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