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Met office to ramp up efforts to reach youth

BY NADINE WILSON Observer staff reporter wilsonn@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, March 20, 2014    

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ITS Twitter account has a large following and its website has a section geared specifically towards educating children, but deputy director of the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, Evan Thompson, said the organisation intends to make even more efforts this year to engage the youth in matters related to its work.

"Young people are more engaged in the use of technology as well, so there is an increased look at how technology can be used as we dispense the products of the meteorological service in Jamaica and also globally," Thompson told editors and reporters at the Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange this week.

The youth focus, he said, was decided by the World Metereological Organisation, of which Jamaica is a member. The organisation will be commemorating World Meteorological Day on Sunday, March 23.

"It is felt that we would have missed a great opportunity if we don't engage the young people of our organisations, the young people of our countries, in understanding what weather is and understanding what climate is, and knowing how they can be included in not only the understanding of it, but encouraging people to also understand and then to contribute towards how we mitigate and adapt to the climate that is changing," he said.

Thompson said that his organisation has always sought to educate young people on matters related to weather and climate change through career talks in schools. It was also involved in the staging of a mathematics expo at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies last year, and intends to participate again this year. The aim is to teach students how to use maths to get weather forecasts.

"Over the years, we have been engaging the young people in terms of inviting them to our offices. Many of us in primary school would have visited the Met Office, seen the instruments, seen how they work and that kind of thing, and that still continues," he said.

The Meteorological Service of Jamaica has a weather branch which is essentially responsible for observing and forecasting weather patterns and collecting data and disseminating it to various agencies and to the general public, and a climate branch which maintains a current database of the country's climate, which is used to inform policy and the productive sector.

One of the concerns for the organisation is the increase in flooding, which Thompson said is caused by climate change.

"We also could be seeing more devastating hurricanes that develop because that is what is expected with climate change taking place," he said.

"We will have maybe not more hurricanes, but the ones that do develop could be more super-storm type systems that will develop quickly and develop to such magnitudes that they surpass what we have experienced in history," he explained.

Thompson was joined at the Monday Exchange by colleagues from agencies within the Ministry of Land, Environment and Climate Change Marilyn Headley, CEO of the Forestry Department, and Basil Fernandez, managing director of the Water Resources Authority.

Those agencies will also mark worldwide observances this weekend -- International Day of Forests on Friday and World Water Day on Saturday.

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