A message about a heat wave as well as potential sunstroke deaths by an ‘Equinox phenomenon’ is being circulated by a number of social media users over the last few days or weeks is a HOAX; this message did not originate from the Meteorological Department of St. Maarten. The message warns recipients that this phenomenon will affect us in the next 5 days, to stay indoors, to frequently take their blood pressure and temperatures are expected to rise to 40 degrees Celsius. The name equinox means ‘equal night’ in Latin. It is the day of the year when the sun is directly over the equator, therefore all points on the earth’s surface experience the same number of hours of daylight and darkness (12 hours each). This happens only twice a year around March 21st and September 23rd.
Although climate data globally and in some locations across the Caribbean shows that there has been an upward trend in the maximum daytime temperatures, this has not been the case based on the data collected at the Princess Juliana International. Maximum temperatures are still within the normal range with the highest daytime maximum temperature recorded on June 6th 2010 as 35.2 degrees Celsius(95oF).
The Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) which is used to forecast temperatures indicates that night-time temperatures for St. Maarten and the northeast Caribbean from June to August 2017 are likely to be warmer than normal however for daytime temperatures there was little predictability therefore there is an equal chance for these temperatures to be either above or below normal. On days when both temperatures and humidity are high it will feel hotter and more uncomfortable.
Consequently, the general public are therefore advised to take the necessary steps to remain hydrated. Persons who work in the construction field and or outdoors should protect themselves from UV radiation especially on sunny days and pay attention to credible information from the Ministry of Public Health, Disaster Management and the Meteorological Department.