Record Sea Surface Temperature for Antigua During January

27 02 2015

Dale C. S. Destin |

Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) around Antigua and Barbuda were at record tying levels during January.  The SSTs rose to 27.1°C, tying the record highest for January reached in 2010 and 1970. Interestingly, this occurred while much of the tropical North Atlantic had near normal SSTs.


What does this mean?

It is not clear what this mean at this time. However, recent reports have linked the movement of fish poleward to cooler waters to climate change. That means movement of fish away the tropics, such as our area.

According to NOAA Fisheries scientist John Hare, it is hypothesized “that they’re heading north because they’re trying to stay within their preferred temperature range as the ocean warms up around them.” Thus, record warm SSTs cannot be good for fisheries and by extension our diet and economy.

Warm SSTs could also have negative implications for coral reefs. One of the stressors that lead to coral bleaching is high SSTs. Increased ocean temperatures are deemed the main cause of coral bleaching. As explained by NOAA’s scientists, “The bleaching takes place when corals are stressed by changes in conditions such as temperature, light or nutrients. They expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn white or pale. Without the algae, the coral loses its major source of food and is more susceptible to disease.”

Of some comfort though, the outlook for the period February-May 2015, issued by NOAA Reef Watch, shows coral bleaching to be unlikely for our area. However, most of the rest of the tropics and Southern Hemisphere subtropics are under watches and warnings.


The two previous years of record high SSTs to start the year were associated with near record high rainfall years. In 2010 and 1970, the average rainfall totals for Antigua were 65.29 and 65.11 inches respectively. Only five other years have had higher rainfall dating back to 1928. However, this obviously is much too small a sample size to even start to think about this having any implications or portents for the rest of the year with respect to rainfall.

Looking forward…

We now turn our attention to the month of February to see if there is a continuation of the warm SSTs. Also we look forward to see if the warmth spreads to the tropical North Atlantic (TNA). Warm SSTs across the TNA is a good omen for rainfall across our area and vice versa.


The Value of Meteorological Services

20 02 2015

Dale C. S. Destin |

The Value of Meteorological Services will be the focus of a workshop to be hosted by the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service, February 23-27, 2015.


Met Services Provide 1000% Return on Investment

Entitled Designing Socio-Economic Benefits Studies of Meteorological/Hydrological Services and Products in the Caribbean, the workshop which is being organized by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), will see about 25 participants from across the region, including mainly meteorologists and climatologists converge on Antigua.

According to the WMO, there is a “rapidly growing demand for meteorological services around the world”. It’s estimated that national meteorological and hydrological services (NMHSs) maintain and operate most of the US $10 billion infrastructure that supports the provision of these services. However, the rapid demand for services is creating major scientific, operational and public policy challenges that can only be successfully met by major investment injections into the NMHSs.

The diverse nature of the increasing demand requires major investments in resources ranging from comprehensive, high quality and robust observational networks to improved understanding of meteorological and hydrological phenomena through ongoing scientific research to user needs to improved mythologies and algorithms for use of meteorological, hydrological and information in decision-making.

It has long being wondered by the meteorological and economics communities if the weather fraternity is earning its keep. According to WMO, it has long been known that investment in NMHSs provides a return of at least $10 for every dollar spent, more than earning its keep. If the NMHSs were banks, it means that they would be paying their depositors a stupendous unheard of 1000% on their money. Amazingly, this does not include the value it contributes to human safety and well-being, which is not easily quantifiable, but quite large.

It’s very crucial and of significant interest to all that NMHSs be able to demonstrate their socio-economic benefits. This is because we are facing the greatest economic and environmental threat of our time – climate change. If we are to adapt to the changing climate, huge additional investments will be required in climate services infrastructure to support important national responsibilities including those under the GCOS, GFCS and UNFCCC.

The WMO has been grappling with the issued of the Value of Meteorological Services for decades. Concrete measures were put in place in 2007 and these have culminated into a book to be published this year by the WMO on the subject titled “Valuing Weather and Climate: Economic Assessment of Meteorological and Hydrological Services”. To help publicise and promote the book and its findings, the WMO has gone on a global road show by putting on a number of workshops surrounding the socio-economic benefits of NMHSs. It’s for these reasons why WMO is coming to Antigua to talk about the Value of Meteorological Services.

I am looking forward with great anticipation to this workshop. For once and hopefully for all, the open secret of the Value of Meteorological Services to society will be made crystal clear. It is expected to remove all doubts about the major economic contribution to GDP that meteorology plays and provide a fact based platform for conscious and deliberate further development of the meteorological Services here and across the region.

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