Project underway to enhance weather communication in Jamaica
Director of the Meteorological Service Division (Met Service), Evan Thompson (right), listens to Weather Climate Communication Adviser, Resurgence, Robert Powell, during a recent JIS Think Tank. Resurgence and the Finnish Meteorological Institute are developing a weather app for Jamaica as part of efforts to improve local weather communication. (Photo: Donald De La Haye)

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The capacity of the Meteorological Service Division (Met Service) to forecast and convey weather information to the public, is being strengthened under a project being undertaken through international partnership.

Director of the Met Service, Evan Thompson, said a change in weather communication islandwide will manifest through the Building Resilience through Climate Adaptation Technologies (BReTCAT) project.

According to Thompson, BReTCAT will entail upgrading the Met Service's “forecasting processes, making those forecasts and warnings available to the public in a way that is easily understood and also easy to act upon”.

In a release, Thompson, who is also the President of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Association IV, noted that “the format in which weather information is shared will help the public understand what the weather will actually do, how it will impact us on the ground and what kind of conditions should actually be expected based on the forecasts”.

BReTCAT involves partnership with United Kingdom (UK)-based social enterprise, Resurgence, the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and executing agency, the Caribbean Climate Innovation Centre (CCIC).

It is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) with counter funding from the WMO, Climate Kick and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to the tune of approximately US$1 million.

The BReTCAT project has three components – enhancing the weather services of the Met Service, creating an open data platform, and providing entrepreneurial support.

Under the enhancing the weather services component, the FMI and Resurgence are collaborating to bridge the gap between meteorologists and the people who use their forecast information.

This will be done by engaging stakeholders in a series of workshops to improve forecasts and early warning systems or create new ones. These include farmers, fisherfolk, utility providers, water authorities and emergency response entities such as the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

A weather app for the country will also be developed. “One of the things we are going to do is make weather information much more easily available on your smartphone,” Weather Climate Communication Adviser for Resurgence, Robert Powell, told JIS News.

“We will use a lot more visual imagery in the forecast through weather icons, for example. We have developed a weather icon which shows a palm tree leaning over in the wind and the more it leans, the stronger the wind is. Whether you understand miles per hour or kilometres per hour or you are not clear on either, these icons will let you know at a glance if the weather is likely to have a big impact on you,” he pointed out.

The app, which is still in its development stages, will utilise local data from the Smart Met software used by the Met Service instead of remotely sourced weather information, making it more accurate than the general weather report provided on mobile phones.

Head of Group, International Projects, FMI, Matti Eerikäinen, explained that the mobile app foundation “will be the same, operationally, as what we will be using in Finland, which increases the sustainability of the app; [however] it will be fully localised in the Jamaican environment and weather conditions and climate”.

Resurgence and FMI are aiming to complete the app development later this year with hopes to create similar ones for other Caribbean countries after assessing the response in Jamaica.

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