First KNMI climate scenarios for BES

For the first time ever, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute has included Bo­naire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES) as special mu­nicipalities of the Nether­lands in their annual cli­mate scenarios. St. Eustati­us and Saba are expected to experience hurricanes with increased frequency and intensity, whereas the hur­ricane activity in Bonaire stays the same. On all three islands, the temperature and wind speed will rise while KNMI expects less rainfall.

The new KNMI’23 na­tional climate scenarios demonstrate what climate changes are to be expected in the next decades in both the European and Caribbe­an parts of the Netherlands. The institute made four scenarios for both sides of the Atlantic, each based on greenhouse emissions (and therefore, global warming) and the expected rainfall changes. The KNMI dem­onstrates that further cli­mate change will depend on how much greenhouse gasses we will collectively emit. The more emissions, the more global warming and extreme weather.

The data shows that, even in the most optimistic sce­narios, climate changes will continue to increase for a long time, with great con­sequences for both the BES islands and the European Netherlands.

For Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, that means that the temperatures and the wind speed will continue to rise, while the islands will experience less rainfall. In the scenario with the least emissions, the temperature would continue to rise until 2050, after which it would remain the same, and the rainfall would slightly de­crease. In the high-emis­sions scenario, the tem­perature would continue to rise indefinitely and the rainfall would significantly decrease.

The rise of sea levels is most threatening to Bo­naire. On Bonaire, the sea rises with an average of 3,7 millimetres per year, whereas the average rise is 3,0 millimetres per year for St. Eustatius and Saba. Even with low global emis­sion levels, Bonaire can ex­pect a considerable sea lev­el rise (31-78 centimetres) by 2100. In case of high emissions, the sea could rise even more (55-127 cen­timetres).

For St. Eustatius and Saba, climate change means that hurricanes in the highest category will occur more often. Major hurricanes are expected once in 20 to 34 years for the period 2015 to 2050, instead of once in 39 years in the past (1980 to 2017) — and they are ex­pected to be even stronger. In the future, major hurricanes are expected to have even higher wind speeds and higher maximum rain­fall intensity.

As is the case for the Eu­ropean part of the Neth­erlands, the effects of cli­mate change on the islands largely depend on the level of global emissions. That means that global climate policies can make a big dif­ference for the future cli­mate of the BES-islands.

The Daily Herald.

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