Strengthening of Severe Weather Forecasting Capabilities in Eastern Caribbean

Tropical cyclones, also called hurricanes, are the most prevalent weather extreme in the Caribbean, which is also influenced by heavy rainfall from convective storms, strong winds and ocean waves and swell. In 2017, the Severe Weather Forecasting Demonstration Project (SWFDP, which later became Severe Forecasting Programme (SWFP) in 2019)-Eastern Caribbean launched activities to increase capacity to forecast such events in the region. SWFP-Eastern Caribbean, now in its pre-operational phase, organized an online workshop on severe weather and hurricane forecasting competency from 8 to 12 November to develop the capacity of the operational forecasters in the region.

This fourth workshop under SWFP-Eastern Caribbean was the first to be organized online on the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) Moodle based virtual platform “myCIMH.” Around 20 operational forecasters from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) attended. The workshop introduced SWFP concepts and approaches, including the “cascading forecasting process,” regional collaboration and communication of information. Forecasters were trained to interpret and use Numerical Weather Prediction (NWP) products, including Ensemble Prediction System (EPS) outputs, and to use satellite-based information and products and instability indices to help with forecasting and nowcasting of severe and high impact weather events. They also gained understanding of Impact-Based Forecast and Warning Services (IBFWS), its benefits to Small-Island Developing States (SIDS), the steps for its implementation and the paradigm shift necessary for an NMHS to initiate IBFWS.

The lessons learned from the 2020 Forecast Testbed held during the EUREC4A (Elucidating the role of clouds-circulation coupling in climate) international field campaign, which measured downstream winter trade winds in the North Atlantic in proximity to Barbados, were also shared at the workshop. These included:

  • capabilities in interpretation and use of NWP products were expanded, with use of high-resolution NWP models and the SWFP-Eastern Caribbean Extranet
  • forecasters developed practice in remote collaboration and communication of tailored forecasts
  • knowledge-exchange with researchers were considered to be good to excellent
  • Caribbean synthetic analysis of observations and model output is useful for distilling various data sources to gain insight for forecasting and nowcasting
  • forecasters agreed that the testbed prepared them for the SWFP.

Workshop participants were encouraged to collaborate on the EUREC4A weather research analysis and publication of results.

The workshop also established the SWFP-Eastern Caribbean network, introduced and tested the SWFP-Eastern Caribbean Extranet and outlined plans for operationality of the platform for risk information, coordination and feedback, and testing of the thresholds. Results of the workshop will be used to finalize aspects of the Operational Plan that relate to thresholds and triggers for severe weather events in the region, regional risk information and downscaling capacities for alert system at national level, appropriate Standard Operating Procedure and documentation as well as archive, verification and feedback.

The workshop’s participants acquired the skills, tools and products to improve early warning services. Thereby, there NMHSs will contribute to the effectiveness of emergency preparedness, response and recovery efforts, reducing the impacts of extreme events on vulnerable people and their livelihoods in Eastern Caribbean.

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and the CREWS initiative have supported implementation of SWFP-Eastern Caribbean since its launch in 2017. It has made steady progress towards strengthening capacity in the region. The SWFP aims to provide operational support for Multi-hazard Early Warning Services (MHEWS) at regional and national levels.

CIMH hosted the workshop in collaboration with the Regional Forecast Support Facility (RFSF), Martinique (Météo-France Antilles-Guyane), Regional Specialized Meteorological Centre RSMC) Miami for hurricane forecast support (US NOAA/National Weather Service), Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO) Headquarters Unit, and the University of Leeds. RSMC Miami is mandated to provide tropical cyclones or hurricanes forecast support in the region, while RFSF Martinique is responsible to provide guidance for severe weather forecast (mainly non-tropical cyclone).

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