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Small Caribbean Group Islands at Greater Risk from Climate Change By City Tech Blogger Jay

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a small island nation in the eastern Caribbean group of islands referred to as the Lesser Antilles. You may have a hard time spotting it on most world maps, especially because many of those islands are represented by random dots in the general vicinity of where they should be. A lot of maps don’t include Saint Vincent and the Grenadines at all. In fact, it’s so small that my grandfather was once detained in West Germany for several weeks during the early 70’s under suspicion of illegal immigration and possible spycraft. None of the customs agents there had ever heard of the place, and access to official documentation from more distant parts of the world was still limited then. Still, for most of my early life, St. Vincent was my entire world.

The archipelago, made up of 33 islands of varying sizes, is everything you’d expect from a tropical Caribbean paradise, and a few things you might not: beautiful beaches, palm trees, lush greenery, a robust cultural heritage, an alarmingly low GDP, two active volcanoes, and lots of geological and meteorological luck. Until recently, many of the locals were of the belief that our little nation had been touched by the hands of God. For many Atlantic hurricanes, the Lesser Antilles would be the first sighting of land, but many of the southern islands are JUST far enough south that the clockwise rotation of most Atlantic hurricanes causes them to veer north before they get a chance to make landfall there. The stronger the hurricane, the greater the ration, making it less likely to hit the islands. Even when they do make landfall, it’s typically because they’ve lost a lot of the power and momentum that energize hurricanes in the first place, making them significantly less devastating than they would’ve been. This had been the case for St. Vincent until October of 2010.

Our luck ran out when Hurricane Tomas came knocking towards the end of the 2010 hurricane season. Even though we’ve encountered many tropical storms, our little island had managed to avoid almost 200 hurricanes since hurricane Allen in 1980. This created a sense of complacency for a lot of people. A lot of us thought that God and the odds were on our side. Not to mention that in a country with a GDP per capital of about $8,600 (disproportionately skewed by the country’s top earners), it takes time and resources that one might not have readily available to prepare for a hurricane that may never come. So, when Tomas made landfall, a lot of people were unprepared. Trees were uprooted, homes destroyed, lives were lost, and people were left in shock. At the time, I was working for the electric company, and we spent a hectic week trying to restore power to everyone affected. During that time, I saw first-hand what nature was really capable of.

We had another glimpse into that destruction in April of 2021, when La Soufriere, a stratovolcano in the north of the mainland, erupted for the second time in 42 years. Fortunately, due to months of activity, the people had ample time to prepare and evacuate, so no life was lost during that eruption. There was, however, significant damage to homes and infrastructure that cost the country millions. In addition to La Soufriere, the island also worries about Kick Em Jenny, an active underwater volcano located about 8km (4.97 miles) west of the country. There is a concern that an increase in seismic activity could one day lead to an eruption that could cause tsunami activity in the region and await its dormant nearby “brother” Kick Em Jack. As global warming continues to affect the world’s climate, more extreme weather events are expected to occur. Scientists have discovered that there seems to be some correlation between hurricanes with higher-than-average precipitation and seismic activity, as evidenced in Haiti in 2010, when the island was struck by a magnitude 7.3 earthquake just days after tropical storm Grace swept over it. Scientists have speculated that landslides and floods caused by Grace contributed greatly to the tectonic activity that led to the earthquake. The fear is that increased hurricane activity exacerbated by global warming could do the same to St. Vincent, a region that is home to 3 volcanoes in relatively close proximity to each other. Hopefully we never have to find out.

Image: https://global.unitednations.entermediadb.net/assets/mediadb/

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