Met service system soon to provide real time data

METEOROLOGICAL Service, Jamaica (MetService JA) has added a new automatic weather station to its inventory of updated equipment across the island, a move intended to ultimately improve the quality of local forecasts and the reliability of long-term climate data.

The station, located on the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies (UWI), stands 30-feet high and is equipped with multiple high-tech sensors for rain, temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, solar radiation and wind.

On its own, the station is important for the fact that it bridges a density gap in the islandwide network. But on a broader scale, it is representative of an ongoing modernisation of the system which is hampered by outdated equipment and a loss of access due to changes in land ownership.

That modernisation thrust has seen the addition of 60 automatic weather stations to the MetService JA network over the last seven years, under the two phases of Jamaica’s Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR) which is being implemented by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).

It is the PIOJ that also led the acquisition of The UWI station, under a programme titled Improving Climate Data and Information Management Project (ICDIMP), a sub-project of the PPCR. It will be managed under a partnership among PIOJ, MetService JA and Climate Studies Group Mona.

ICDIMP Project Manager Lehome Johnson explained that part of the reason for siting the latest piece of equipment at UWI was because the university is designing a real time weather platform to remotely tap into individual stations across the island and provide up-to-the minute data on a range of weather data.

“The automatic weather station will provide The UWI with the opportunity to test the real time system,” he said. “It will capture data on a wide range of weather parameters including temperature, quantity of rainfall, wind speed and direction, humidity, solar radiation, etc so there was a need to have a station in close proximity to The UWI to test that real time system.”

Director of MetService JA, Evan Thompson added that the new weather station will enhance the density of the coverage network and increase the range of weather data available to his team, as well as the speed at which such data can be accessed.

“People will want to know whether flooding really took place, for example, and so as soon as the rain event ends, people are asking for the data. But currently, we wait until the end of the month to collect so it is a challenge.

“With the real time system, however, we will be immediately able to say, ‘This was a once in a lifetime event,’ or that, ‘Definitely, the flooding is worse than we’ve seen in how many years,’ and then we can distinguish between real flooding and what is just street flooding because of rubbish in the drains,” he explained.

In addition, the MetService JA head said the system will soon provide real time data that allows for early warning approaches to disaster risk management and climate change resilience.

That’s music to the ears of portfolio minister Pearnel Charles Jr, whose housing, urban renewal, environment and climate change ministry is currently designing a tool to factor in climate resilience into development infrastructure planning.

“I am really pleased with the direction in which our data management capabilities are tracking, because the availability and use of good quality data is the essence of good decision-making and effective planning and action at all levels…Without data we can’t make good decisions,” the minister said.

Johnson, meanwhile, said the real time system is being developed at a cost of $10.7 million.

Once complete, the system will provide a web-compatible interface that in real time generates and displays reports of weather information such as temperature, humidity, rainfall volumes, etc. Testing is in train, with installation expected to begin in the next few months.

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