Features — 13 November 2015 — by Johnelle McKenzie
Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology Meets in Belize

BELIZE CITY, Tues. Nov. 10, 2015–Belize is currently hosting the 52nd annual meeting of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology (CIMH). The 5-day meeting is being held at the Radisson Fort George Hotel.

Belize’s Chief Meteorology Officer, Dennis Gonguez, told Amandala that the five-day meeting is focused on the discussion of meteorology and hydrology issues, research and training and in the first two days, an examination is made of how the institute can be advanced. On Wednesday, the directors of the meteorological services throughout the Caribbean will meet to discuss technical matters in relation to meteorology in the Caribbean. Finally, on Thursday and Friday, the representatives of the Ministers of Meteorology throughout the Caribbean will meet to discuss policy and financing of meteorology in the Caribbean region.

Dr. David Farrell, principal of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology, told Amandala, “The meeting pulls together the directors of the Board of Governance of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology & Hydrology with the goal of looking at the past accomplishments of the institute and forging a way forward for the coming year.” Belize is one of 16 member states and these member states fund the institute, said Farrell.

Farrell said that the institute provides training for meteorologists throughout the Caribbean and pointed out that most persons presently working at the Met Service in Belize have received training from the institute. Farrell further explained, “The institute is the climate data archive for the region and collects climate data from the region, processes it and makes it available. Also, the institute acts as a global center excellence in training of satellite meteorology and supports a significant amount of research and development in the region in the areas of climate, hydrology, and meteorology.”

“CIMH is in the process of becoming the world meteorology organization regional climate center in order to deliver climate product and services to climate-sensitive sectors such as tourism,” said Farrell. He further explained that CIMH provides drought forecasts which can be used to enable the tourism sector, water sector and food sector to plan better. Farrell explained that the peak time for tourism is during the dry season, which makes this industry sensitive to drought, particularly because of the impact that a shortage in water supply can have. Farrell mentioned, as an example, St. Kitts & Nevis, where they have banned the selling of water to cruise ships because of the excessive drought.

Farrell explained that CIMH is developing an impact forecast which would help countries to be better prepared for flood disasters like the one Belize experienced a few weeks ago. “The meteorologist can forecast the big rainfall event, but once it hits the ground it becomes a hydrological problem and so there has to be a good communication of information between the meteorologist and the hydrologist in terms of the quantity and duration of the rainfall so people on the ground can make an assessment of flood potential,” he said.

Farrell said, “Caribbean Climate Outlook is a forum through which they deliver training twice a year on seasonal forecasting with respect to a sector, for example health or water. There is a consensus meeting amongst the meteorologist and climatologist to discuss the climate in the region between, a period of six months to a year. Thereafter personnel from the sector are brought in and discussions are held on how the risk would affect their sector.” The sector then uses the information to plan accordingly, thereby reducing the disaster, said Farrell. “We do quite a bit of sensitizing and training of people on how to take regional level information and translate it to the national level of building new tools and services,” said Farrell.

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