Barbados is now home to the first Regional Climate Centre (RCC) in the western hemisphere.
The centre, which is housed at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) in Husbands, St James, was financed to the tune of US$5 million by the United States Agency for International Development.
United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States Linda Taglialatela noted the importance of having such a centre in the region.
“In the past two decades, the Caribbean has experienced several natural phenomena, including floods, droughts, and hurricanes, which can threaten economic growth. Also, the region presently accounts for seven of the world’s top 30 water-scarce countries, and Barbados is in the top ten of that list,” she said.
The US government provided support for the RCC through infrastructural work at the CIMH, as well as providing staff training and other resources to help manage the centre.
Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO) Tyrone Sutherland said the project got underway following a meeting in 2009 when the countries of North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, which makes up this region of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), discussed the importance of having a regional climate centre.
“In 2010, the governing body of the CMO supported our proposal to move in this direction, and we started the demonstration phase in 2012. Eventually, when the WMO’s governing body met in China last October, we took a proposal to them and they were impressed with what they saw, and ultimately we were approved as a Regional Climate Centre in May of this year,” he said.
Director of the RCC Adrian Trotman said they have gone beyond just long term forecasting, and look at implications for the region as a whole.
“We have created bulletins with the health sector, supported by the Pan American Health Organization; we worked with the Caribbean Tourism Organization with a tourism one; we worked with agricultural institutions on one for that sector, especially since agriculture is one of the main sectors directly affected by favourable or adverse weather patterns,” he said.
Resident representative for the UN Food and Agricultural Organization Lystra Fletcher-Paul underscored the importance of the centre’s role, noting that “presently, the Caribbean’s food security is threatened owing to higher temperatures and lower rainfall, and this centre, through its forecasting, will help in managing the agricultural sector.”
Executive Director of the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency Ronald Jackson called on regional governments to ensure the venture is a sustainable one, by providing it with the resources it needs to continue its work.