Atmospheric Flash Drought in the Caribbean
Ramseyer, Craig A.
Miller, Paul W.
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Despite the intensifying interest in flash drought both within the U.S. and globally, moist tropical landscapes have largely escaped the attention of the flash drought community. Because these ecozones are acclimatized to receiving regular, near-daily precipitation, they are especially vulnerable to rapid-drying events. This is particularly true within the Caribbean basin where numerous small islands lack the surface and groundwater resources to cope with swiftly developing drought conditions. This study fills the tropical flash drought gap by examining the pervasiveness of flash drought across the pan-Caribbean region using a recently proposed criterion based on the Evaporative Demand Drought Index (EDDI). The EDDI identifies 46 instances of widespread flash drought “outbreaks” in which significant fractions of the pan-Caribbean encounter rapid drying over 15 days and then maintain this condition for another 15 days. Moreover, a self-organizing maps (SOM) classification reveals a tendency for flash drought to assume recurring typologies concentrated in either the Central American, South American, or Greater Antilles coastlines, though a simultaneous, Caribbean-wide drought is never observed within the 40-year (1981-2020) period examined. Further, three of the six flash drought typologies identified by the SOM initiate most often during Phase 2 of the Madden-Julian Oscillation. Collectively, these findings motivate the need to more critically examine the transferability of flash drought definitions into the global tropics, particularly for small water-vulnerable islands where even island-wide flash droughts may only occupy a few pixels in most reanalysis datasets.