Met official: Frontal rainfall systems keep forest fires in check

Met official: Frontal rainfall systems keep forest fires in check

29 March 2008

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Trinidad and Tobago — On Tuesday, 25 acres of forest on the St Benedict hills were lost to a large forest fire, which broke out less than two miles from the St Benedict’s monastery. It took about half-an-hour to consume the 25 acre area.

The blaze was subsequently put out by workers from the Forestry Division with the assistance of a helicopter from the Ministry of National Security.

The fire brought the total number of forest fires on the northern range to 15 as compared to 24 for the same period last year.

This low number in a season which many people have described as unusually “wet”, prompted questions as to what to expect for the remainder of the dry season.

An official of the Meteorologist Service in Piarco told Newsday although the levels of precipitation for the past three months have been more than normally expected, it is far from being highly unusual.

He said there have been similar years in the past where rainfall far exceeded the expected amount, but it did not necessarily amount to any concerns of climate change.

The official said the unusual amounts of rainfall were due to severe frontal systems frequently coming from the North American continent and disrupting the weather patterns of the sub tropical high — the system in the North Atlantic responsible for fair weather conditions experienced by the Caribbean in the beginning of the year.

The official said it was highly possible the extra precipitation, quelled the usually high numbers of forest fires in the country since the vegetation would be laden with moisture. As such it would be much more difficult for them to burn.

He said we should not expect any increase in forest fires for the remainder of the dry season since April typically has showers and May was the climatological month for transmission from dry to wet season.

John Radgman, the assistant conservator for forests for the Nothern Range, said his team was on the site of the fire from Tuesday evening until Wednesday morning to ensure the blaze did not flare up once again.

Radgman also said his division lacks the necessary human resource to properly control the outbreaks of forest fires in the entire Northern Range, and urges the ministry to appoint more persons to assist in this critical division of the ministry.

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