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Haiti is considered one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, as a result of the significant environmental degradation caused by the over-exploitation of forest resources, soils, water, quarries and coastal waters. This degradation reduces the countrys ability to absorb the effects of extreme weather events and manifestations of climate change, which is expected to result in reduced water resources, increased soil erosion and the intensification of coastal erosion and coastal ecosystem degradation. In such conditions, adaptation requires actions aimed at reducing and reversing the trend to ecosystem and natural resource degradation.

The climate of Haiti depends on season, terrain and location. The lowland areas of Haiti have a tropical climate. On the plains, the mean annual temperature is 27C (81F), while in the mountains, the mean annual temperature drops to 16C (61F). Seasonal temperature variation is around 4C (8F). The temperature along the coasts averages about 81F (27C) with very little variation between summer and winter. The mountains are significantly cooler (61F, 16C) and routinely experience frost during the winter months. Frost frequently occurs above 400 meters (1,312 ft) elevation during the cool season.

Haiti's annual rainfall occurs during two rainy seasons -- April through June and August through October, with a lull during June and July. Annual rainfall varies from 500 mm (20 in) in the northwest to more than 2,540 mm (100 in) in the south and east. Because the rain is brought by Northeast trade winds, heavy rainfall occurs in the northern mountains and plains and on the peaks of the southern mountains. The central plain, including Port au Prince receives moderate rainfall (53 inches, 130 cm per year).

Drivers should also take note of added safety risks during the rainy season (April-November), when roadways can become impassable quickly. It is not uncommon for water in the roads to reach the doors of an average SUV. The mountainous areas pose even greater challenges to road travel due to rain and foggy conditions. The narrow, unpaved roads are also blocked by muddy surface conditions, causing unsafe driving conditions.

Hurricanes with torrential rain and destructive wind are a threat in the late summer and fall.An average of8 hurricanes a year strikes the Caribbean region between July and November. In September 1998, the eye of Hurricane Georges passed north of Port-au-Prince over Haiti's main agricultural areas (the Artibonite Valley). The hurricane caused extensive damage to local water treatment and distribution infrastructure. During 2012, Haiti was adversely affected by two severe tropical storms (Isaac and Sandy) that resulted in severe flooding and washed out roads. The southern areas were hit the hardest, with a number of deaths and countrywide food shortages.

Haiti is particularly susceptible to flooding because of large-scale deforestation on the Haitian half of the island, where most trees have been cut down to make charcoal for cooking. Without trees to slow or stop rainfall, the water runs over the sun-baked ground, filling low spots.

Seasonal algal blooms in Haitian coastal waters result in contamination of shellfish and reef fish such as amberjack, barracuda, grouper, and snapper with neurotoxins. Consumption of contaminated fish and shellfish may cause ciguatera fish poisoning or paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). The acute health effects of ciguatera fish poisoning and PSP generally include nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscular aches, inversion of hot and cold temperature sensations, and tingling and numbness of the lips and tongue. These symptoms may persist for up to several months. In severe cases, respiratory paralysis and death may occur. Cooking does not destroy the algal neurotoxins.

The primary cause of deforestation is the sheer scale of agricultural occupation of the landscape; however, demand for woodfuels is another significant contributor to deforestation. Per capita consumption of fossil fuels is the lowest in the hemisphere. Haiti is currently 80 percent self-sufficient in energy based on wood as the primary cooking fuel in rural areas and wood charcoal in urban areas. Climate change mainstreaming in poverty reduction efforts requires a long-term, comprehensive vision to be implemented through improved planning and organisation of space and society whereas the most vulnerable populations, in both urban and rural areas, are focused on the short-term satisfaction of essential needs to the detriment of natural resource sustainability. Experience has shown that efforts to improve environmental and climate governance need to be complemented with field activities aimed at satisfying the needs of communities, in particular with regard to livelihoods and disaster risk reduction.

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Page last modified: 01-06-2017 12:45:33 ZULU