URGENT! – Where is Barbados’ Weather Doppler Radar Data?

by David G. Brooks

Some of you maybe recall my previous letters in both newspapers a few months back on this subject, however my latest attempt a couple weeks ago, which I will share here now, has not be published – maybe because I got more specific …

URGENT! – Where is Barbados’ Weather Doppler Radar Data?

Several weeks have gone by since my last comment on this subject and no public response from the Barbados Meteorological Office. In fact, I would have to say there seems to be a step back or a retrograde in some respect. The following makes me consider this.

Subsequent to my last comments and a short while after the Ministry of Agriculture launched their new web site – http://www.agriculture.gov.bb – I found that they had included a link to Satellite and Radar Imagery and I followed it only to find that it showed the same radar imagery provided by Martinique and Guadeloupe that has been around for many years.

I also noticed that they had a comments feed or blog available on which I asked about what was going on with our radar, in particular asking…

“How is it Trinidad and Guyana can come and pass us out in the field?”

To which I got a reply, and I quote … (it’s on the web site)

… written by Sonia Nurse – Deputy Director (Ag), July 13, 2010

Dear Sir,

Please note that the up-dated link does include Barbados.

We were previously experiencing some technical difficulties in setting
up the link with the other radars in the eastern Caribbean.

Well, of course the French island radar link does include Barbados, it always has but just barely and it is not up-to-date as what we have and therefore found wanting. However, on both counts the response does not answer why Trinidad and Guyana (and Belize) did their own thing – internet-wise – and their radars were funded and provided under the said same arrangement as ours.

I have since responded nearly a month ago now, in essence, that I know that as per the EU agreement Météo-France was suppose to coordinate the consolidation of all these radars’ imagery on the internet, and in essence asked why is it that we are waiting on this while we are the most exposed (except Belize) when the others are not and yet did not wait on the agreed collaboration with Météo-France and have gone ahead with their own national initiative and gone public on the internet.

There has been no response to this and only after another ‘professional’ request did Ms. Nurse once again post the following “There is no direct link to Barbados’ radar at present. However you may use the following link to access the Martinique Radar”

Now take into consideration that over a year ago, according to the Barbados Advocate dated June 28, 2009 under the caption Doppler Radar On-stream, as follows:

“The Doppler weather radar at Castle Grant, St. Joseph is operational and has been generating data that is utilized at the Meteorological Office in Barbados.

Director of Meteorological Services, Chesterfield Layne, provided an update on the status of the radar to The Barbados Advocate earlier this week. He noted however, that additional components related to the dissemination of information were still being tested.

The radar is expected to improve forecasting and preparedness and is part of a network of nine radars throughout the Caribbean that will contribute to the Regional Weather Radar Warning Service and provide information to the public, Government agencies, disaster preparedness agencies, and other users.”

Most of you will note that in the past I have not mentioned what I am about to, as I did not want it thought that I was trying to intimidate our Barbados Meteorological Office but alas I think it needs to be made public, more so on this forum, and I do so reluctantly for said reason yet am left no choice if we are to have a free flow of information as other countries do.

I have operated a weather related web site – http://www.brohavwx.com – for the last 10+ years, providing ‘free of charge’ all of the satellite imagery, lightning and localized weather data which is received and processed by the equipment and software that I have invested and/or made myself in over the years.

I started in the early 1990’s with shortwave radio based (amateur) Weather Facsimile (WEFAX), adding Automatic Picture Transmission (APT) from Polar Orbiting Environmental Satellites (POES) and Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) WEFAX a few years later. Just after mid-90’s I added a Lightning Detector which gives a graphic of lightning strokes around us like a radar screen. This detector type, for amateur use, has become one the most international used lightning detector in the last 15 or so years. Since then the software available for it has become quite sophisticated and of course provides internet access for this which I publish on my web site.

Since 2005 I have managed to convert my GOES WEFAX to the new digital Low-Rate Information Transmission (LRIT) system, which due to my activity in the area I got a very special conversion price. They are not many GOES LRIT ground stations and I am probably one the few and maybe the only one in this region. I am in constant contact with GOES LRIT operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the USA, to the extent that I am on the copy list for anyone sending queries regarding GOES LRIT. In addition, my ground station has been registered with the World Barbados Meteorological Organization (WMO) some years ago during a census, with an amateur status and has continued as such. All GOES and POES imagery and data is free for anyone to receive and use.

I also participate in the international Citizen Weather Observer Program (CWOP) providing local weather data every 15 minutes to this program of which there are over 500 different user organizations of the CWOP mesonet data. I provide similar data to the Weather Underground Personal Weather Station every 5 minutes and what they call rapid fire every 15 seconds and I am not the only such station on the island that does this, but weather data from Grantley Adams is only updated every hour. All of this data I provide is free; I get no compensation for it other than the fact of knowing that I am helping in some way.

Paradoxically, because I have an active weather web site for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, and we as a nation have had no real official Barbados Meteorological web site, I have been occasionally bombarded with questions over the years about the local weather forecast from tourist about to visit the island or so forth. However, more importantly and the more pertinent questions coming from by both amateur weather peers and/or professions in the field and related fields as to why there no official web presence for direct data from our local Barbados Meteorological Office at Grantley Adams Int’l. Airport (GAIA)?

These days the questions come regarding the Barbados Radar link I provide on my web site (which is username and password protected), in the hope that it will work as expected one of these days soon, as they others do freely from Belize, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Suriname and Curacao.

With the advent of the internet it has become unfortunately obvious to most Barbadian citizens and otherwise that our Barbados Meteorological Office simply seems to repeat what has been already forecast by the National Weather Service (NWS) or the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in the USA.

Over the years I have tried to defend their position both on the front that weather forecasting is not an exact science and that, yes, the NHC in Miami is the authoritative base for all Tropical Storm and Hurricane activity in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, so our Barbados Meteorological Office cannot say much more than what is issued by the NHC/NWS.

Even our own local weather data link provided by said – http://www.agriculture.gov.bb – web site is set to go to – http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/TBPB.html – for Current Weather Conditions. TBPB means GAIA Barbados in essence. This means that we are still relying on external sources to provide or in the above case to reproduce our own data for the internet. Same goes for the satellite imagery provided – not locally provided or processed, so what happens when external links go down and we only have local internet so to speak.

Notwithstanding all of this, the salient questions still remain in everyone’s minds:

Why has the Barbados Meteorological Office been so tardy in having a comprehensive internet web site that we can be proud of, like nearly all of the other islands?

I have heard rumours of funding problems to get this data on the web but I can only think this to be a red herring, as internet site and basic cost are dirt cheap if you just want to get your (even highly invested) data out there.

So this begs the question, does our own Meteorological Office really want to share this data?

16 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Environment, Technology

16 responses to “URGENT! – Where is Barbados’ Weather Doppler Radar Data?

  1. James Jones

    I am in total agreement with Mr Brooks. Given the time the radar was said to be up and running we should have had a feed on the internet. Through out most of the world the public has a feed from Doppler weather radar available on the internet. It is very useful for those of us who from time to time have outdoor events and we would like a live picture of what weather would in the coming hours. It also gives citizens up to date information when there is adverse weather conditions.
    What is puzzling, why Barbados is always playing catch-up when it comes to technology? What could be so difficult to the MET office provide an internet feed. I understand that there were some technical issues to be sorted out. Certainly, if Trinidad and Guyana found solutions we should be to do the same.
    So, MET office come on, give us a feed on the internet from the Doppler radar.

    Amateur weatherman

  2. David G. Brooks

    Thanks, BFP, for posting this up for me.

  3. St George's Dragon

    Even worse, I think, is that after the Ministry of Agriculture revamped its website, they no longer have the four day weather forecast at all.

    Go to http://www.agriculture.gov.bb/ and click on “weather”. It’s blank.

  4. David G. Brooks

    Thanks for the support ‘James Jones’.

    As I said, this is not the first time I have put my views on this matter out in the public forum and in the past both the Nation and the Advocate published them (although the Nation can do some real cutting and sometimes puts my comments of the context that I intended, the Advocate rarely does this and usually in good taste), so I am still somewhat mystified as to why they did not publish my last letter as seen above.

    I would appreciate any comments, suggestions or constructive criticisms as to what I may have written to warrant it not to be published by both of them. Mind you, if they did publish it and I missed it please advice too.

  5. David G. Brooks

    St George’s Dragon:

    Oh, I know. That has been my point all along … Barbados has no direct web link to its own Meteorological data and discussion, and what does exist CDERA and the Ministry of Agriculture (which I know the Met. Office comes under) is pitiful.

    The CDERA site, which was the only main site for our weather, used to show a satellite image configured for showing just around Barbados that linked from a US/NOAA site. It has been showing ‘Internal Server Error’ for months now – the reason?

    The operational satellite for GOES-East was changed from GOES-12 to GOES-13, and when this happened it caused many upsets for site relaying GOES-East imagery. As I am on the main user list with NOAA I was on it and managed to change over my own imagery postings within a day or so.

    But I too, noticed that my backup imagery links from the same source that the CDERA site uses had problems and I soon made the necessary adjustments.

  6. David G. Brooks

    St George’s Dragon:

    Sorry, it looks blank but they are a few hyper-links there if you hover your mouse around the rather unprofessional titles (links) there (for a Government Web site, and they point to …

    Current Weather Conditions …
    http://weather.noaa.gov/weather/current/TBPB.html

    Metars (used mainly by pilots and aviation interest)
    http://aviationweather.gov/adds/metars/

    Tafs (like Metars in its audience)
    http://aviationweather.gov/adds/tafs/index.php

    NOTHING from our own web site or sources. Yes the source of the data would be from us, but data sent to the US/NOAA/Aviation sites and then linked back to.

    And yes, the Four Day Forecast has no hyper-link at present, but don’t start me on that. Try my site for a 5-day forecast but its not my doing only linked into my weather stations data and the software that I use that also picks up on the ‘official’ forecast – no rocket science there.

    http://www.brohavwx.com/wx/international.htm

    But to get back to the Doppler Radar issue, why can’t they get it going?

  7. David G. Brooks

    Oh, one last observation … Trinidad’s Radar (constructed under under the same collective EU agreement) only shows out to 150km (just under 100 miles) on their web site, but they can show out to 400km (250 miles) which would cover Barbados and a bit more.

    Tell me why they are not doing so, like the French have been doing for years now?

    Might it be that they very well know that Barbados has their own radar and why should they provide such information to the Barbadian public since our own local authority seems lothe to do so?

  8. Kammie

    David, you are so correct as I have also downloaded passes of the NOAA satellites. Please give me a call at 436-4745 as I have the 1691Mhz Feedhorn but never put up the GEOS. Thus I need your help.

  9. 108

    There’s a huge golf-ball structure behind Castle Grant house.
    Erected by a German team I believe?
    who worked 24/7 until it was done, I’m told.

    Is that Doppler? I don’t know.

    A friend who knows a LIAT pilot
    recently gave me this FRENCH link…
    http://www.meteo.fr/temps/domtom/antilles/pack-public/animation/animMOSAIC2.html
    which provides a composite image from two Fr. stations
    one on Guad., the other on M’que.
    Not sure if this is Doppler
    but you might bookmark it for future use.

    Personally I use this..
    http://weather.msfc.nasa.gov/GOES/
    and the fairly good close-ups it delivers.
    It shows the region from about Dominica to T’dad
    if you click on the Eastern Carib. area near Barbados
    -that’s close enough for me.

  10. Politically Tired

    I thought the ‘Ball’ next to Huntes Gardens was to give us up to date weather information, in fact I’m sure there was a something on the news regarding that when it was completed.

  11. David G. Brooks

    To Kammie,

    It will have to wait until the weekend or call me at 436-1417 if you don’t here me by late Saturday. The few days could be busy for me.

  12. David G. Brooks

    108

    Yes, the Doppler Radar is located at Castle Grant – it is that big white ball, you see it even when coming down the hill from Pine Dairy to Bussa way out in the distance on the easternmost point of the ridge that runs all the way back westward to Shop Hill.

    I have that same French link on my web – http://www.brohavwx.com/ – along with others in the Caribbean, and I will say this … with the exception to ours, T&T, Guy. & Belize which were all funded by the European Union (EU), all of the others at situated on islands are still colonies of European nations and have had them longer than us, but we had to wait for a special loan from the EU which by and large were our old colonial masters.

    Independence has is advantages but in cases like this sort of thing its has its disadvantages – we as the Easternmost island of the Windward Islands (all former British Colonies) should have had a Doppler Radar long ago at it will encompass virtually all the Windwards or at least give them early warning too.

  13. David G. Brooks

    Note how useful the radar in Belize was for Tropical Storm Karl …

    This is the same type of radar we have and installed under the same EU arrangement.

    Oh, by the way, just to offset any misconceptions that I’ve heard recently, these radars have a maximum range of 400 km. (~250 miles), the 200 or 250 km that Trinidad & Belize seem to operating is probably the optimum range but not the maximum.

  14. Ron

    I came online to look for images of Tropical Storm Tomas, followed the links, and ended up here. I noticed that your last comment on the matter was almost two months ago, so I am wondering: is the radar is online now? If it is, can you post the link?

    Thank you.

  15. David G. Brooks

    I now understand that it is not operational right now and that something has failed with the system.

    Lovely, just lovely, huh?

    Can’t seem to get the press to get dug in on this – not major news, I guess.

  16. 84

    Good post! I have made inquiries from NHC abour forecasting ‘severe weather systems’, their priority is US territories. So appears that anything that does not have circulation in the C’bean to develop into a systems affectin US, does not get priority. Having advance waning of those heavy rain systems with a Dopplar would be beneficial