Doppler weather radar down

The $550 million Doppler Weather Radar Monitoring Station, which was commissioned in 2009 with the intention of giving citizens ample warning of severe weather conditions, has been down for two weeks and the Hydrometeorologi-cal Service is waiting to procure a needed part from Germany so that it can be fixed, according to a source.

“It has been down for about two weeks and I can’t say how it was damaged but most likely wear and tear over the years. We have spares but that specific part we didn’t expect it to wear and tear. Unfor-tunately, it went down after the rainy season. Unfortu-nately, again, the rain is not the issue but the wind and we are trying our best to fix that as soon as possible,” a source, from the Hydromet Service, told Stabroek News on Tuesday.

The source added that it is expected that the radar will be repaired by the end of the month and the service is engaged in consultations with local and international engineers.

The radar was funded by the European Union and the Guyana Government and was purchased with the intention of providing minute-by-minute weather reports so that citizens could be provided with ample warnings to prepare for severe weather changes.

However, it has continually come under scrutiny over the years due to the lack of adequate warning ahead of severe weather incidents, such as the recent cases where communities across the country saw significant damage due to weather-related occurrences. In Linden, some 50 houses were damaged by heavy winds and trees, and in Waramadong and Kako, in the hinterland, several houses and schools were also damaged because of the severe weather. Heavy winds and rain had also hit the Linden-Soesdyke Highway, where several utility poles were ripped from the ground. Several benabs at the Splashmins Resort and at Madewini Creek were also destroyed.

However, the source explained that the radar is only used for short-term forecasting, known as “nowcasting,” which predicts changes in the weather about 0 to 2 hours in advance.

“So, if I give you a message now, could you get it to the country in two hours? So, sometimes, we do detect the changes but by the time it gets to the public, it has already passed. These winds will not last for long, probably about 20 to 30 minutes. One of the things is, of course, we would love to have this going out for the citizens on time,” the source explained, while emphasising that the issue is not detecting the severe weather changes but the avenue through which the warnings are given to the citizens.

The source explained that by protocol, the Hydromet Service does not issue the warnings. Whenever a severe weather change or anomaly is detected, the results are first shared with the Minister of Agriculture, Noel Holder, and then the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), which are then responsible for disseminating the information to the citizens. “The CDC has the mandate to make those decisions and they will engage the necessary persons and necessary ministries,” the source pointed out.

There have also been questions about the capacity of the Hydromet Service’s staff. The source explained that they are currently in the process of strengthening their human resource capacity. “Now, we are having some trained individuals. I could say for a fact that we are doing a little better there,” the source said, while pointing out that citizens need to understand that Guyana is not as technologically-advanced as first world countries and would not have received the funding to make certain improvements that would make readings more efficient. “Of course, we are being guided and we are trying to get there,” the source added.

Stabroek News had been told that the facility cannot provide weather information for the days ahead. However, the information collected, when superimposed utilising available technology at the Hydromet Service, can be used for such predictions.

There is a view that the information needs to be presented in a more usable manner and a source has noted that while the Hydromet Service has the technology, its utilisation, development and ultimately, presentation to the public, need to be improved. It was noted too that the timeliness of information needs to be addressed.

After a tour of the facility in July, 2009, German scientist Dr Jens Didszun, who along with a team of engineers, had been testing the system, had said that the facility was capable of providing 400km of weather coverage centred around its present geographical location and giving updates every 15 minutes of weather conditions for a 24-hour period.  (Dhanash Ramroop)

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