Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services, Sabu Best (left) explaining some of the features of the new Barbados Doppler Weather Radar to Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Barbados has new eyes in the sky as it relates to predicting, detecting, tracking, and managing climatic events.

That is because the Barbados Doppler Weather Radar (261BBS) was officially commissioned recently at Castle Grant, St. Joseph, as part of the activities to mark World Meteorology Day 2022, celebrated under the theme Early Warning and Early Action: Hydro meteorological and Climate Information for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Speaking during the official ceremony to unveil the plaque and commission the weather system, Minister of Home Affairs and Information, Wilfred Abrahams, welcomed the additional capacity to further boost Barbados’ early warning system with country-specific predictions and forecasts.

He explained that international entities focused their attention on the entire Caribbean, with emphasis on the United States and the East Coast of the United States, but Barbados needed its own independent capacity to allow officials to verify the modelling of others and develop its own based on what was happening locally.

“We need for Barbados, as early as we can, to be able to read the systems that are coming so we know what is coming; so we know what Barbadians have to do; so we can inform our people what to expect.

“We also have to be able to monitor in a timely basis the development of the systems so that we keep abreast,” he said, noting that without the radar, the country would be “effectively flying blind”.

When it comes on stream in the coming weeks, the upgraded dual polarised radar will bring with it new capabilities and benefits for residents and visitors, as it relates to early warning and early action.

These include improved scanning strategies for better temporal and spatial representation of hydro meteorological events; the ability to better detect tornado-type activity and debris and provide additional confirmation of dangerous storms, and the ability to discern between precipitation and non-meteorological echoes, such as ground clutter and birds. 

It would also allow for the improved ability to identify areas of heavy rainfall and give an estimation of total precipitation leading to better flash flood detection; the ability to distinguish between different precipitation types, and easier identification of the melting layer.

The Barbados Doppler Weather Radar (261BBS). (C. Pitt/BGIS)

However, the Minister pointed out that the radar would enhance the weather stations being installed across the island to monitor what was happening in various communities.  To date 42 of the intended 100 stations have been installed.

“There are a lot of interesting things happening in Barbados climatically, but we don’t know them because we have not been measuring them.  We are now able to measure and identify where has the most rainfall; which areas in Barbados get rain every day, so it is not anecdotal.  It allows farmers to plan…; it allows those doing home gardens to plan.

“We cannot lose by having the most comprehensive information on weather and its climatic impacts across the entirety of Barbados, and we are well on the way to doing this,” the Minister stated.

Director of the Barbados Meteorological Services, Sabu Best, also noted that such a project was critical for Barbados’ national early warning response systems, particularly as the frequency, intensity and size of tropical cyclones in the region increased over the last 10 years, due to climate change and climate variability.

He also thanked all those who contributed to the project, from inception to completion, while overcoming several challenges along the way.

The planning phase for the project got under way late 2019, before its commencement in mid-2020, and finally its commissioning on March 23, 2022.

World Meteorological Day is observed around the world to highlight the importance of national meteorological and hydrological services to a society’s safety and wellbeing.

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