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Cayman: National Weather Service Welcomes New Faces and Embraces Progress

(From left to right) New recruits Aeronautical Meteorological Observer, Dwayne Leslie, Meteorological Forecaster Trainee, Benjamin Harding and Meteorological Observer III, David Thompson. Not pictured are Aeronautical Meteorological Observer, Jovaine Leslie, Meteorological Observer Trainee, Niya Mothen and Manager of Research & Media Services, Shamal Clarke.

In the dynamic field of weather forecasting, adaptability and resiliency are essential for success. The Cayman Islands National Weather Service has demonstrated its continued commitment to these values through its recent organisational developments and strategic staffing. In 2023, the National Weather Service saw a notable surge in new hires, each bringing a unique blend of passion, skill, and potential to the team.

The promising newcomers are Dwayne Leslie, Jovaine Leslie, Niya Mothen, and Benjamin Harding. Each new team member embodies the spirit of Caymanian excellence and has already found professional success with the National Weather Service.

Dwayne Leslie joined as a Meteorological Observer IV Trainee in December 2022 and recently completed the Aeronautical Meteorological Observer certification from the United Kingdom Met Office College in November 2023, showcasing both his dedication and aptitude for the study of meteorology. 

Similarly, Jovaine Leslie demonstrated remarkable potential as a Meteorological Observer IV Trainee in February 2023. Mr. Leslie earned his Aeronautical Meteorological Observer certification from the UK Met Office College in November 2023 and attended the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados in March of this year to undertake the Entry Level Meteorological Technician course, further enriching his expertise. 

Niya Mothen was hired as a Meteorological Observer IV Trainee in August 2023 and attended the Entry Level Meteorological Technician course at the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados in March 2024, laying the groundwork for her promising career. 

As Meteorological Observer IV Trainees, their main responsibility will be the taking of regular, special meteorological observations for both aviation and other weather-related purposes. Their remit also includes the sampling of upper-level conditions via radiosonde (balloon-attached sensors) release. The observations not only form part of the global meteorological dataset used for Numerical Weather Predictions from which weather forecasts can be made but also form part of the Cayman Islands’ climatological record. The accuracy of this data is not only paramount for safe aviation operations but also important to the quality output of global weather and climatological models. Both Dwayne Leslie and Jovaine Leslie, as well as Niya Mothen will be joining an experienced group of meteorological observers who will share practical knowledge of their day-to-day operations to complement their newly acquired technical knowledge.  

Completing the ensemble of emerging talent is Benjamin Harding. Starting as a Meteorological Forecaster Trainee in August 2023, Mr. Harding’s journey reflects a blend of hands-on experience and academic rigour. Having completed several internships with the National Weather Service and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Science in the United Kingdom, Mr. Harding is currently undertaking the basic instruction package for the meteorologist course at the UK Met Office College. His completion of the course in May 2024, marks a significant milestone in his journey toward becoming a certified weather forecaster. 

Mr. Harding’s role as a Meteorological Forecaster Trainee is geared towards the analysis of various meteorological observational data, satellite images and model outputs to generate public forecasts for the Cayman Islands as well as aviation forecasts for the Owen Roberts International Airport in Grand Cayman and the Charles Kirkconnell International Airport in Cayman Brac. The provision of pilot briefings, conveying forecast information about en-route and destination conditions, is another aspect of Mr. Harding’s duties which is critical for aviation safety. Severe weather is a natural occurrence and can be a life-threatening event if not forewarned. The role of a forecaster is to provide that warning to both the public and aviation partners. Mr. Harding in the cases of extreme weather, he will assist a Senior Meteorologist or the Chief Meteorologist in composing severe weather bulletins and weather notifications. Communicating the appropriate level of risk to the public either in written or verbal form via interview is critical to eliciting the appropriate level of response that can help reduce damages to properties and loss of life. This is a serious responsibility but as in the case with the observers, Mr. Harding will join a group of well-experienced forecasters that will help guide him in his development.

Beyond the infusion of new talent, strategic staffing adjustments have fortified the service’s operational framework. David Thompson, assumed the role of Meteorological Observer III in March 2024, following seven years of observer experience and the successful completion of an Associate’s Degree in Computer Science at the University College of the Cayman Islands, underscoring the service’s commitment to nurturing homegrown expertise. 

Mr. Thompson’s new role is focused on the climatological aspect of meteorology, including data acquisition, analysis, climatological product generation and storage as well as the quality control and assurance aspects. His experience comes in handy in this new role as it will allow him to discern erroneous data due to potentially faulty instrument performance, giving the Technical Service unit notice to investigate the instrument in question. In this regard, Mr. Thompson will assist the technical team with on-site/field investigation, new instrumentation siting and installation. The quality management aspect of this role will help ensure that the National Weather Service quickly identify drops in performance standards of both the observing team and the instrumentations which they utilize. From time to time, Mr. Thompson himself will have to conduct observations not only to remain up-to-date with the process and procedure but also to provide cover when needed and assistance during severe weather events such as hurricanes and tropical storms.        

Additionally, the appointment of Shamal Clarke as the Manager for the Research and Media Services section in November 2023 marks a pivotal milestone in the service’s evolution. This strategic placement aligns with the organization’s overarching strategic plan, serving as the cornerstone for a robust organizational structure poised for future growth and innovation. 

Mr. Clarke’s appointment marks the first of four crucial management positions to be filled, aligning with the strategic plan’s recognition of heightened demands on the National Weather Service. These demands stem from aviation and maritime needs for services, as well as the imperative to address climate change impacts. In his role, Mr. Clarke will focus on enhancing hazard mitigation efforts by ensuring effective communication of risk through existing products and developing new, improved ones as needed. This effort will span all areas of the service and involve research into innovative technologies to enhance efficiency. Additionally, the public can anticipate increased visibility of the National Weather Service through local media and social platforms as they continue their vital support of the community and other government agencies during severe weather events.

As the Director General of the Cayman Islands National Weather Service, John Tibbetts expressed unwavering optimism and immense pride in the accomplishments of the new recruits and the strategic promotions within the service. Director Tibbetts said, “I eagerly anticipate the blossoming careers of these officers and the boundless opportunities that await them in their ever-evolving careers in meteorological science.”

As the Cayman Islands National Weather Service braces for what forecasters predict to be an extremely active hurricane season, the addition of fresh talent, coupled with the promotion of seasoned professionals, injects vitality and expertise into the service’s operational framework. Demonstrating a commitment to preparedness by bolstering the service’s capacity to anticipate, monitor, and respond to the challenges posed by potential weather systems. Director Tibbetts said, “With a strengthened workforce and enhanced organisational structure, the weather service is better equipped to provide accurate forecasts, timely warnings, and crucial information to safeguard lives and property in the face of potential storms.” 

The Cayman Islands National Weather Service continues to demonstrate its commitment to excellence and showcase itself as an organisation where talent thrives and innovation flourishes. With a firm foundation built upon the shoulders of dedicated individuals, the National Weather Service advances boldly into the future.


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