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Examination of rainfall variability in the Bahamas using data from a volunteer rain gauge network
Proceedings of the 2022 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2022 Authors: Fuhrmann C., Wells J., Rodgers J.
Water resources in the Bahamas are currently under increasing stress from several factors. Rainfall in the region has been declining in recent decades and the latest suite of climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggest that this trend will continue in the future. Moreover, many Bahamian islands are experiencing population growth and an expansion of tourism, both of which lead to greater demands for potable water. Small islands like those in the Bahamas are especially prone to the combined effects of climate change and increasing population because of their limited land area and because rising sea levels are negatively impacting the freshwater lens. Despite these concerns, there is a dearth of basic water resource information in the Bahamas, including measurements of rainfall. As freshwater consumption continues to deplete much of the groundwater storage, it becomes increasingly necessary to explore surface-based storage options such as catchment systems, which are strongly influenced by rainfall patterns. In 2017, we received funding through the 100K Strong in the Americas Program to collect rainfall data on the Bahamian island of San Salvador as part of the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow network (CoCoRaHS). This is a volunteer network whereby local residents record rainfall once a day from manual rain gauges. Through the grant, we were able to install several gauges and recruit and train volunteers to record rainfall on San Salvador. Many of these gauges now have over four years of daily data. In this presentation, we provide a summary of the spatial and temporal patterns of rainfall across San Salvador during the period 2018-2021. In addition, we explore the different synoptic-scale weather types associated with rainfall on the island using surface weather maps, which provide insight into the processes that help generate rainfall. CoCoRaHS gauges have also been installed on other Bahamian islands, allowing us to better understand the important variation in rainfall and associated weather patterns across a larger portion of the Bahamian archipelago. In doing so, we hope to promote sustainable water resource management in the Bahamas that accounts for both short-term weather variability and long-term climate change.