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.

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5 Comments on “Barbados’ Weather Doppler Radar System Down Until September of 2017”

  1. Kammie Holder June 6, 2017 at 9:56 PM #

    We can probably lend them our live Geos feed

    Like

  2. John Everatt June 6, 2017 at 10:29 PM #

    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.

    Like

  3. David June 7, 2017 at 6:18 AM #

    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.

    Like

  4. Vincent Haynes June 7, 2017 at 2:29 PM #

    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

  5. David June 18, 2017 at 2:36 AM #

    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.

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