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a few months back on this subject, however my latest attempt a couple weeks ago, which I will share here now, has not be published – maybe because I got more specific …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
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?