Guyana - Environment
Guyana has two rainy seasons: May to August, and November to January. February typically experiences much drier conditions. Guyana has a tropical climate with almost uniformly high temperatures and humidity, and much rainfall. Seasonal variations in temperature are slight, particularly along the coast. Although the temperature never gets dangerously high, the combination of heat and humidity can at times seem oppressive. The entire area is under the influence of the northeast trade winds, and during the midday and afternoon sea breezes bring relief to the coast. Guyana lies south of the path of Caribbean hurricanes, and none is known to have hit the country.
Temperatures in Georgetown are quite constant, with an average high of 32 °C and an average low of 24°C in the hottest month (July), and an average range of 29°C to 23 °C in February, the coolest month. The highest temperature ever recorded in the capital was 34°C and the lowest only 20°C. Humidity averages 70 percent year-round. Locations in the interior, away from the moderating influence of the ocean, experience slightly wider variations in daily temperature, and nighttime readings as low as 12°C have been recorded. Humidity in the interior is also slightly lower, averaging around 60 percent.
Rainfall is heaviest in the northwest and lightest in the southeast and interior. Annual averages on the coast near the Venezuelan border are near 2,500 millimeters, farther east at New Amsterdam 2,000 millimeters, and 1,500 millimeters in southern Guyana's Rupununi Savannah. Areas on the northeast sides of mountains that catch the trade winds average as much as 3,500 millimeters of precipitation annually. Although rain falls throughout the year, about 50 percent of the annual total arrives in the summer rainy season that extends from May to the end of July along the coast and from April through September farther inland. Coastal areas have a second rainy season from November through January. Rain generally falls in heavy afternoon showers or thunderstorms. Overcast days are rare; most days include four to eight hours of sunshine from morning through early afternoon.
In September 2007, during a presentation at 'The Leadership Challenge of Climate Change' convened by the United Nations in New York, President Jagdeo identified the need for a new global agenda to recognize (and compensate) the contributions of standing forests towards addressing climate change through avoided deforestation, carbon sequestration and ecosystem services.
He pointed to Guyana's vast, intact forest resources as a critical asset base for global climate change mitigation and offered to maintain extensive portions of Guyana’s forests in their pristine state, developing a forest management approach based on conservation and sustainable harvesting and utilization.
He added that with 90% of the population on the coastal belt one meter below sea level, Guyana was particularly vulnerable to climate change. This coastal plain, constituting only 5 percent of the country's total area, was originally low swampland but was transformed by the Dutch into the country's most productive agricultural land. This vulnerability was vividly demonstrated by a massive flood in 2005 which was estimated to have led to losses equivalent to approximately 60% of the country's GDP.
Over the last century significant changes in Guyana’s climate were observed. Guyana’s Initial National Communication (INC) in Response to its Commitments to the UNFCCC (2002), provides an analysis of these changes . The Second National Communication is currently being developed.
- Records suggest an increase by 1.0°C in the mean annual temperature in Georgetown within the last century (1909-1998).
- Prior to 1960, annual rainfall amounts were generally above or about the long term average. However, from 1960 and onwards, there has been a tendency for below average rainfall.
- Tide gauge data in Guyana for the period 1951 to 1979 indicated a mean relative sea level rise of 10.2 mm per year. This is more than five times the global average over a similar period.
Guyana is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change for many reasons. Approximately 90% of the country’s population resides on the Coastal Plain which lies approximately 0.5 to 1 meters below mean sea level. The coast is also relatively flat, which favours rapid accumulation of rainfall runoff, and which makes natural drainage into the ocean very difficult. This situation presents severe challenges to the drainage and irrigation system. Over the years, high levels of flooding were observed in the country especially along the coast and in some inland areas. Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of flooding events.
Approximately 75% of the country’s economic activities are located on the coastal area, where the major economic activities, such as agriculture, fisheries and industries are found. These sectors are extremely sensitive to extreme weather events and sea-level rise and are therefore highly vulnerable to changes in climate.
Climate change and climate variability has led to increased intensity of extreme meteorological events including hurricanes, floods and droughts and has adversely impacted the lives and livelihoods of Caribbean citizens and threatened the very survival of vulnerable populations and communities.
Since late December 2004, Guyana was hit by three distinct episodes of heavy rain that resulted in some coastal areas of Guyana receiving upwards of 100 cm (40 inches) of rainfall - the most rainfall for a similar period in over 100 years. The heavy rain left two-thirds of Guyana's capital, Georgetown, flooded, affecting over 120,000 and killing six. In late February 2011, the country received roughly 10 inches (25 centimeters) of rain in a 24-hour period, Bloomberg reported. It was more than what Guyana usually receives in the entire month, and rice farmers worried that their crops might be lost.
During a La Niña event, meterologists expect above-normal rainfall in northern South America and below-normal rainfall in southeastern South America. And certainly, during December 2016, regions of Colombia and Venezuela, and northern Guyana and Suriname received above-normal precipitation. Although rain was abundant in the low-level plains of coastal Guyana, where 80% of its population lives, the other countries did not observe extreme rainfall events of importance.
With the world's second highest percentage of rainforest cover (85%), Guyana commands globally important carbon stocks (19.5 GtCO2eq). As one of only a handful of countries that are net carbon sinks, Guyana's forests sequester more carbon than the nation's human activities generate. Guyana's 18.48 million forested hectares in total hold carbon in unusually high density (up to 350 tons/hectare), and store some 5.31 gigatons of carbon. That amounts to approximately 6,638 tons/person, the second highest forest carbon stock per capita of any country on Earth.
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