World Met Day – 2014

23 03 2014

By Dale C. S. Destin |

Happy World Meteorological Day! Today, March 23, is World Meteorological Day (World Met Day). It is celebrated each year to mark the coming into force the 1950 convention that created the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

WMO is to meteorology what FIFA is to football (soccer); it is the United Nations body that governs what happens in the world of weather and climate. Perhaps not as rich as FIFA though!

Over the years, Antigua and Barbuda has benefited tremendously from being a member of WMO since 1988. Last year, we made local history when we graduated our first ever female meteorologist, the first and only Antiguan currently with an MSc in Meteorology, and we are looking forward fondly to celebrating our second female meteorologist shortly. Both of whom were funded by WMO.

WMO Photo

Photo Compliments WMO

World Met Day also celebrates the invaluable contributions that National Meteorological Services (NMSs) and the broader meteorological community make to the safety and well-being of society.

This year’s theme for World Met Day is “Weather and climate: engaging youth;” an appropriate theme given the challenges and opportunities of today’s world. One of the greatest challenges of our time and for generation Z is global climate change. What will a changing world look like 40 years from now? As with challenges there are opportunities. Youth will no doubt play a major part in developing the technologies and policies required to answer the challenges of climate change.

In celebration of World Met Day, with our Caribbean colleagues and the rest of the world, the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service (ABMS) will be having an “Open Day” on March 24. The public, especially the youth, is invited to visit the Met Office at the V. C. Bird International Airport to interact with us and see what we do. We also look forward to your feedback on how we could better serve you. We especially welcome creative and out of the box thoughts.

World Met Day 2014“Engaging the youth” is nothing new for the ABMS, as it is also nothing new for the WMO. For about half century now, the ABMS has basically had an open door policy, welcoming many schools and thousands of youths to its facilities and supporting their career fairs. The ABMS has also facilitated and supported many school projects and assignments from the primary to tertiary levels.

Many of the current members of the ABMS staff, which are youth, are beneficiaries of some of the above mentioned interactions and have since been inspired to make weather and climate a career.

As with any venture, there are always room for improvement. With the heightened sensitivity to the potential disastrous impacts of climate variability and change, NMSs have become centre stage for weather and climate services. In this area, there is much room for development and expansion; Antigua and the Caribbean are no exceptions. With a revamp structure, many more of the region’s youth will have the opportunity to have distinguished careers in weather, climate and related sciences.

Revamping the structure of the region’s NMSs is a growing urgent need that requires immediate attention. With the challenges, present and ahead, and the pivotal roles the NMSs of the region will be required to play, I believe this needs to be a regional effort, perhaps reaching the highest regional body – CARICOM. Of course, these efforts should be led by the Caribbean Meteorological Organization and the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology.

Notwithstanding, there is much to celebrate! Happy World Met Day!

Visit WMO for activities and materials in support of World Met Day

Antigua’s Rainfall Intensity – 2013

13 03 2014

By Dale C. S. Destin |

Antigua’s water crisis has intensified as the blame for the crisis shifts to low rainfall intensity as opposed to drought. Late last week, the Antigua Public Utility Authority (APUA), the country’s water authority announced that the water level at Potworks Dam – the country’s largest water catchment, was too low for further extraction. February 21 APUA indicated that there was only one month of surface water remaining with the Potworks Dam only having two weeks supply remaining. Meanwhile, the blame for the water crisis seems to have shifted from insufficient rainfall to insufficient intensity of the rainfall for 2013. Last week, it was shown that the rainfall total for last year was near normal. The rainfall measured was 46.20 inches, the equivalent of 72.2 billion gallons of water falling on the island in 2013. RainfallIntensity2013a

The discussion has now shifted to whether the rainfall intensity was below normal. Already, persons in authority have made emphatic pronouncements that the rainfall intensity was in fact below normal. Hence, there was not enough run off to replenish surface catchments.

However, freely available data from the Antigua and Barbuda Met Service do not corroborate that assertion. Rainfall intensity is defined as the rate of rainfall expressed in a number of ways such as millimetres (mm) or inches per hour or per day. So, a simple way of doing this is to divide the total rainfall for a given month or year by the number of days with rainfall greater than or  equal to one mm (SDII method). The intensity can also be determined by counting the number of heavy rainfall days i.e. days with 10 mm or more (threshold method).

Regardless of how you bisect and trisect the Antigua rainfall numbers for intensity, the picture remains the same – normal to above normal intensity occurred in 2013. Hence, asserting the country had below normal rainfall intensity is just not consistent with the reality. For 2013, using the SDII method the intensity was 8.4 mm per day, the same as the normal of 8.4 mm per day. Using the threshold method, 2013 had 33 heavy rainfall days, which is above normal, compare to the normal of 26.3 days for any given year.

Last week’s blog entitled Antigua’s Water Crisis seems to have unintentionally rubbed some persons the wrong way and misunderstood by some others. For clarity, these are the substantive issues that were raised and should be addressed: a) the lack of a comprehensive drought plan administered by stakeholders; the under optimization of catchments and under utilization of groundwater resources; the non-preparation of the population for the water crisis, and whether 72.2 billion gallons of water were enough to prevent or delay the crisis.

Antigua’s Water Crisis

4 03 2014

By Dale C. S. Destin |

Antigua is on the verge of running out of water. According to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the water authority, the island is experiencing a water crisis stemming from the current drought, which dates back to late summer 2013. The water authority has indicated that there was only one month’s supply of surface water remaining as of February 21 and most of the limited water flowing through the country’s taps is from the desalination of seawater.

2013 Rainfall vs NormalThis news came as a thief in the night for most residents. At the beginning of the crisis in January, after days of dry taps and silence, APUA eventually issued a statement blaming a downed water plant and being out of water treatment chemicals which they said would be rectified in days. Then, after more silence and the problem unresolved, they then announced that the country was almost out of water due to the drought. However, the rainfall numbers for 2013 don’t support the dire circumstances being painted by the water authority. Whereas the rainfall for 2013 was not typical, with the dry season wetter than the wet season, the aggregate at the end of the year was near normal.  The actual figure was 46.20 inches for 2013 as compared to the normal of 47.37 inches for a given year.

Digging deeper into the numbers, seven months of 2013 had above normal rainfall, two had near normal rainfall and only three months had below normal rainfall – February, July and October (click image for larger view). Six months had over four inches of rainfall and four months had over five inches, one more than normal in each case. If near normal rainfall is now the threshold for plunging Antigua into a water crisis, then it means that about seven out of every 10 years, this predicament can be anticipated. This could result in major socio-economic problem for Antigua as the success of a country is closely linked to adequate freshwater supplies.

There is no gainsaying that there is a drought. However, it has been slight to moderate for much of the time, apart from a very brief period over July to September when there was a serious rainfall deficit, due almost exclusively to a very dry July.

The logical question then is, “why is Antigua running out of water?” The rainfall for 2013 is more than enough to serve the country’s needs. The 46.20 inches of rainfall is the equivalent of 72.2 billion gallons of water falling on Antigua during 2013. Why has APUA failed to capture enough of this water for storage for the dry season? Why is it that nearly all of it was allowed to runoff into the sea? If Antigua is a “drought prone” country, why haven’t there been strategies and institutions put in place to effectively mitigate and adapt to this hazard? Where is the national drought plan? Better can and should be done.

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