Barbados’ Weather Doppler Radar System Down Until September of 2017

Submitted by David G. Brooks

I write this regarding the continued problem we are facing with the Weather Doppler Radar system located at Castle Grant in St. Joseph that is to not only cover Barbados, St. Vincent and St. Lucia but be part of a continuous (composite) radar coverage from the radar in French Guiana through Guyana, Trinidad and on up through the island change and all the way to Belize along the Western Caribbean Sea.

Just to give some background and history and I quote from publicly available Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO) documents online as follows:

In October 2003, the European Commission approved a 13.2 million Euro Regional Project to construct and install four new digital weather radars in the Caribbean to replace an old and obsolete radar network installed by the CMO in the late sixties and early seventies.  The Project will link the new radars with others already in place to form a modern network of nine radars as part of the Caribbean Early Warning System for severe weather conditions.

These initial four sites were Belize, Barbados, Trinidad and Guyana so that would equate to 3.3M Euro (or about US$3.6M) each as a GIFT. After construction and a delay in getting the system connected to the electric grid, testing in Barbados was completed on 14 November 2008. And from the records from the Caribbean Meteorological Council meeting – 48th Session in Guyana – Doc 9 – it also states:

Radar installed in Trinidad, Barbados and Belize.  “Burn-in” of radar systems undertaken in Trinidad & Barbados; partially in Belize.  Some technical difficulties encountered; delays in Site Acceptance Test (SAT).  Images available in T&T & Barbados; on-site software & hardware training for Met staff/CIMH undertaken by SELEX.  SAT completed in T&T & Barbados in November.  3‑year warranty to commence after SAT.

I will mention that up to when Tropical Storm/Hurricane Tomas hit us in late October 2010, our radar was not properly calibrated and stopped working hours before the approach of Tomas and so we had to rely on the (French) Martinique’s Radar as we had for years. In fact, over the years, the only radars that are consistently working – 90+% of the time – are in fact the French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe which are all still French Overseas Territories (or the not so politically correct term ‘Colonies’), leaves one to wonder about colonial independence in circumstances like this.

By this time our 3 year warranty (which I think was paid for and not part of gift too) was two-thirds running out and we still had not got our systems working properly and online. After much ado – debate, abuse and continued pressure, not unlike I am doing now – the system became operational and was online for our professionals and citizens (which was part of the EU deal agreement – to allow free access for all) not only in Barbados but generally.

So, notwithstanding a period of downtime between December 2014 and August/September 2015 while waiting of an approximately $20,000 part, which we all agitated for but seemed not to be able to speed up the process after promises that it was approved, etc. We now find ourselves in a similar position starting from just before the major flooding we have in November last year just prior to the 50th Anniversary Independence until now, but the notice on the BarbadosWeather.Org web site had the following since November 2016 …


Latest Status 2016-11-23 Time: 19:19 UTC

Radar operation: Offline. Calibration test underway. Please do not use!

Radar Communication: OK”

This message continued through three (3) months and really did not make sense …

Latest Status 2017-02-24 Time: 02:41 UTC

Radar operation: Offline. Calibration test underway. Please do not use!

Radar Communication: OK

Then it changed to …

Latest Status 2017-03-24 Time: 12:40 UTC

Radar operation: Offline. Awaiting critical component from manufacturer.

Estimated down time until September of 2017.

Radar Communication: OK

And the latest:

Latest Status 2017-06-06 Time: 17:27 UTC
Radar operation: Offline. Awaiting critical component from manufacturer. Estimated down time until September of 2017.
Radar Communication: OK


What obviously has many of us concerned is the “Estimated down time until September of 2017. “ Why would it take so long (six months) to get a ‘critical’ part in the first place and considering the initial down time since last November on a ‘calibration test’ it really does raise a number of questions? I have searched the Estimates and find no specific mention of this required expense or maintenance of the weather radar but the timing in the change in the online notice does seem to beg a question

One hopes that the relevant authorities, especially the ones that can sort this out quickly and without it seeming like a big favour, as former senator made it known to me in the initial stages, instead of a duty to the people of not only Barbados but St. Vincent and St. Lucia which we also cover.

Relevant Links:

6 comments

  • We can probably lend them our live Geos feed

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  • I see in the news today just how prepared we are as “Tradewinds Gears Up”. Our Prime Minister has also let us know that we are prepared. I hope that we are better prepared than we were for Tomas (for which the warnings came only as that hurricane was actually on top of us) however it seems that as far as our weather radar is concerned we are currently no better off than we were at that time.

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  • The indifference by our authorities comes from an island located outside the beaten path of a hurricane and a culture of incompetence and inefficiency. We need to consider the wider implications of not having an efficient radar service.

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  • Vincent Haynes

    We are truly a rudderless ship manned by a por rakey crew…..how else can this country be viewed……when the purchase of a Mercedes is more important than life saving equipment.

    Like

  • David G. Brooks

    10 hrs

    Note the difference between the resolution of Radar versus Satellite Imagery … looking just as the Satellite I would have said yes we could expect some passing clouds and partial overcast conditions and ‘maybe’ some showers, but the RADAR shows clearly I would have been on the modest part of my assessment.

    Also, the Martinique Radar shows cloud over the central part of Barbados, as I have said their ranging is off a bit, as the cloud causing all the moderate to heavy showers are clearly more to the south of the island as I can see blue sky to my north here in Rockley (SW Coast) and yet we just had 0.25 of an inch (6.35 mm) of rain in the last 10 minutes.

    Something that could easily have been seen and forecast (Nowcast) using our own radar up to maybe 30-60 minutes ago and given warning of the impending showers, had this been a more serious and more intense cell of activity that could have caused flash-flooding etc.

    No automatic alt text available.

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  • Its still not working …

    Latest Status 2018-10-11 Time: 21:51 UTC

    BMS still awaiting return of RF front-end component from manufacturer. No ETC as of yet. We will keep you posted.

    But the manufacturer sent the RF Front-End part to Barbados back in late October 2017.

    ——– Forwarded Message ——–
    Subject: 90CAS-2 Barbados Doppler Radar Status
    Date: Mon, 6 Nov 2017 11:33:16 +0100
    From: service service@selex-es-gmbh.com
    To: ‘dbrooks@brohavwx.com’ dbrooks@brohavwx.com
    CC: Gray, James J.Gray@selex-es-gmbh.com, Mohr, Annette A.Mohr@selex-es-gmbh.com, service service@selex-es-gmbh.com

    Dear Mr. Brooks,

    thank you very much for your below email and for expressing your concern about the long downtime of your radar to us.

    It is totally understandable that a downtime of nearly one year is unacceptable, especially if you go through such hurricane seasons as this year.

    I looked at your case 17-07057K and yes, we received the broken RF front-end from you in February this year.

    As written in our repair quotation VAN170093 we estimated a repair time of five (5) months until calendar week 41 (middle of October) as the broken part needed to be ordered / repaired by our supplier.

    Finally the repaired item was shipped back to Barbados and received on 25th of October. On 2nd of November Sabu Best confirmed receiving the part via Email.

    So hopefully the Barbados radar will be back operational very soon.

    To avoid such long downtime in the future BMS has multiple options to increase availability.

    a) If you receive from Selex a repair quotation with a long repair time, ask alternatively for the delivery time of a new part. Maybe the purchase of a new part has a shorter delivered time.

    b) Buy spare parts upfront to have fast access in case of broken parts. Of course this requires an bigger onetime investment by BMS.

    c) Do as your neighbor’s in Bermuda do for example. They participate in our spare part pool and they have access to their spare parts within five working days (see PDF attached). Maybe this is the smartest option also for Barbados?!

    In either way, please keep in mind that repairs might take a long time and that Selex does not have all spare parts in stock at all times.

    Thus we should find together a solution best and workable for BMS to avoid long downtimes in the future so that you can use the radar whenever needed.

    Please understand that it is our company goal to have all our radars up and running.

    For future correspondence you can also reach the Selex customer service team directly via service@selex-es-gmbh.com

    Once again, thank you for your honest feedback.

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen / With kind regards

    Stefan Peter

    Head of Customer Service

    Selex ES GmbH

    Gematronik Weather Radar Systems

    Raiffeisenstr. 10

    41470 Neuss

    GERMANY

    Phone: +49 2137 782 412

    Fax: +49 2137 782 11

    service@selex-es-gmbh.com

    s.peter@selex-es-gmbh.com

    http://www.selex-es.de

    Von: David G. Brooks [mailto:dbrooks@brohavwx.com]
    Gesendet: Freitag, 3. November 2017 14:30
    An: Info
    Betreff: Barbados Doppler Radar Status
    Wichtigkeit: Hoch

    Good day,

    I will get straight to the point and you will find my contact, location, etc information at the bottom of this email message. I also speak for a Facebook Group which I founded a few years ago called Barbados Weather Watchers Reloaded (BWWR) – see link below – which has a following of just over 7,500 members, mostly in Barbados but also have interest from several of the other islands and even some regional/international ‘observers’ in the profession or related.

    I/we have been wondering why it has taken out local Barbados Meteorological Service (BMS) nearly a year to get our Radar back up and working since late last November (2016), almost a year now. They (BMS) first put up a message, between November and March this year, that it was being re-calibrated …

    Latest Status 2016-11-23 Time: 19:19 UTC

    Radar operation: Offline. Calibration test underway. Please do not use!

    Radar Communication: OK”

    Then switch it to …

    Latest Status 2017-03-24 Time: 12:40 UTC

    Radar operation: Offline. Awaiting critical component from manufacturer. Estimated down time until September of 2017.

    Radar Communication: OK

    Now, in November, after leaving the above message up all through October, we are getting …

    Latest Status 2017-11-03 Time: 11:52 UTC

    BMS still awaiting return of RF front-end component from manufacturer. No ETC as of yet. We will keep you posted.

    Its is no secret (and subject to public documents available on the web site – http://www.cmo.org.tt – of Caribbean Meteorological Council (that guides the CMO in our region) that Selex ES GmbH is the manufacturer of the Barbados and 3 other Radars (Cayman came on board later) under the October 2003, the European Commission approved a 13.2 million Euro Regional Project and even though you seem to boast a robust Spare Parts Management Program …

    http://www.de.selex-es.com/capabilities/meteorology/services/spare-part-management

    … our Met Office seems not to be able to get the Critical Part we need and we have just gone through one of the worse Hurricane Seasons without this very useful tool.

    So I was wondering you have any comment(s) to make on this matter, as their actions or non-actions and messages on the web site make it look like Selex is deficient in assisting us during the very critical time, not that we be without the radar for anytime longer than the usual outages or breaks that are a given from time to time.

    We also recall a similar breakdown between December 2014 and August/Sept 2015 where is was common knowledge that another critical part was needed.

    I would prefer to keep this at this level for now and not involve any of the Press we have here, but as you would understand a few weeks short of a year is grounds for some impatience and concern by our people. Thanking you for your cooperation and light you can shed on this important matter.

    Best Regards,

    David.

    David G. Brooks

    “Jus-Ric”,

    Rockley,

    Christ Church, BB15152

    BARBADOS, West Indies

     URL:      http://www.brohavwx.com/
    

    Home Tel: (246) 436-1417

    Work Cel: (246) 230-5333

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/BarbadosWeatherWatcherReloaded

    Selex ES GmbH
    Sitz der Gesellschaft / Registered Office: Neuss
    Registergericht / Register Court: Neuss HRB 17453
    Geschäftsführer / Managing Director: Ulrich Nellen

    Like

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