October 28, 2020

Cayman Islands attend weather conference


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director-head-shotWeather Service Director At Regional Conference

National Weather Service Director General John Tibbetts described the ’ close brush with Hurricane Earl and near record dry year at a recent regional conference.

The gathering of directors of meteorological services from the English speaking Caribbean and the British Overseas Territories took place in Grenada, from 7-11 November 2016. It was part of a series of annual meetings that surrounded the 56th session of the Caribbean Meteorological Council ().

Asked to bring his remarks to the group, Mr. Tibbetts said: “Earl was a difficult system to forecast in that there were still questions at the point that it reached Haiti, as to whether a storm centre had even formed. Out of an abundance of caution we issued a tropical storm watch as it passed, which turned out to be well south of us”.

meeting-of-regional-meteorological-services-directorsTurning to the 18 inch deficit in rainfall experienced by the Cayman Islands through the end of October, he noted: “We are looking set to have the driest year in our history, something that has been constant throughout this year, with only January having average or above rainfall.”

In addition to briefings from peers on the impacts of weather and in particular hurricanes on their operations, weather service heads also heard about the pending launch (on Friday 18 November) of a new satellite system that will revolutionise the way that met offices receive data.

The group also discussed the outcome of the most recent World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) meetings, where the CMO is represented by its coordinating director Tyronne Sutherland of Trinidad.

Policy matters such as the Global Framework for Climate Services and priority activities for aeronautical meteorological services were on the agenda for the council session later in the week. Delegates to that meeting, including ministers responsible for meteorological services, also focused on disaster risk reduction, regional severe weather forecasts and warning systems.

Council members provided feedback on the 2017-2020 strategic and operational plans, reviewed administrative matters, and received updates on joint projects such as the ongoing upgrade of the regional weather radar system.

The Board of Governors of the Caribbean Institute of Hydrology and Meteorology (CIMH) also met early in the week. CIMH is the training and research organisation for member states.

Noting that meteorological services around the Caribbean share a number of common concerns, says: “These regional meetings allow us to stay abreast of changes in the WMO, to discuss opportunities for training and equipment, discuss weather impacts on other countries to see how they handled the situation, and how we might improve our own”.

The 16 member CMO coordinates joint scientific activities by national meteorological services, establishes joint technical facilities, provides joint training facilities, and promotes a reliable severe weather warning system to safeguard the region.

Other functions include advising regional governments on international issues affecting weather, water and climate, and representing the regional meteorological community’s interests in relation to international civil aviation matters. The CMO also works closely with regional agencies involved in disaster preparedness, response and relief.

(GIS) Note:

In 2016 to date the National Weather Service has recorded some 27.53 inches of rainfall through the end of October.

Average rainfall over the last 30 years suggests that the Cayman Islands might have expected some 47.36 inches during this period, reflecting a deficit for the year thus far of 19.83 inches.

Since the Cayman Islands started keeping records in the 1950s the driest year to date was 1997, when the weather service measured total rainfall of 35.61 inches.

The total through October is still some 8.08 inches below that record low total. While November usually produces some 6.05 inches, the month has so far produced only 0.09 of an inch. This means that the Cayman Islands is on track to produce the lowest annual rainfall total on record by the end of this year.

Asked to comment, Mr Tibbetts says that while a weak El Nino or neutral pattern has persisted this year leading to lower than normal rainfall, it is possible that a weak La Niña may form in the remaining weeks of 2016.

This would tend to suppress chances of drought towards the end of the year and during the upcoming dry season. At the same time, such a change may also tilt the odds towards increased flash floods and long-term flooding potential in countries which are prone to such things.


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