The government should stop blaming the understaffed Hydromet

Dear Editor,

The weather is complicated. That is well known. It is also everybody’s business, as former Chief Hydro-meteorological Officer Dilip Jaigopaul often enunciated.

The present Hydromet Office is understaffed and operated by mostly young people, because there was a long period in our history (1970s to 1990s) when wages were essentially frozen. Many who were there without many paper qualifications held on to their jobs at lower levels, and when most of the qualified people migrated to greener pastures the former were promoted to act in higher positions. When they retired within the space of just a few years there was a dearth of institutional memory.

Mr Jaigopaul saw this coming and encouraged UG graduates, but with a public service structure and administration offering only a minimum wage of $25,000 in 2002, he had to rely only on his powers of persuasion and promises of advancement. Thanks to his effort and that of those he encouraged we do have some very few qualified persons, who are now all overworked.

Credit should also be given to former Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud for recognising the importance of the Hydromet and improving the infrastructure somewhat. However, it is the understaffing that remains the major problem. I also have the impression that the politicians were satisfied that they had done their part in procuring the equipment and making a very few key appointments, thinking that magic can now be worked.

The few qualified persons are all busy procuring data with the help of their few technicians. No one is there to analyze, much less interpret and make forecasts. For example, we should have at least 4 meteorologists, one on each shift, and a chief to coordinate the operations. Each meteorologist should have technicians to operate the equipment and computers. Up to last year there was only one overloaded meteorologist. I would be surprised and grateful if he is still here.

So much for the meteorological half of the Hydromet; the situation is similar in the hydrology half.

I have done some limited analyses and you have published some of my conclusions. One outcome of my researches, which I presented to the Hydromet in 2010 and to the UG Faculty of Natural Sciences International Conference on Sustain-able Development in August this  year, notified you in a letter you published (‘Will the Hydromet service be able to advise accurately?’ SN, May 24, 2013) that there is a 110 year equinoctial cycle and that 2013 is the middle of a major changeover period. The current shift of atmospheric cyclone activity from hurricanes in the Atlantic to typhoons in the Pacific could also be a consequence of this phenomenon.

The researches I have done cannot be fully validated in Guyana without rainfall data for the critical period from 1903 to 1915, which is missing from the Hydromet data. I am sure that this data is there somewhere in the UK, but there is no one to officially ask the British High Commission to look for it. It should not be an expensive item of foreign aid.

The message to the government is therefore that they should put their minds to it, stop moaning about climate change and start looking properly at the weather with enough qualified personnel instead of blaming the understaffed Hydromet.

Yours faithfully,

Alfred Bhulai




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