Adages about the accuracy or inaccuracy of weather forecasting are probably as old as the weather itself.
This morning Barbados thankfully woke to sunshine. Schools were closed, offices – private and public – were not, on a day when it was expected that the island would have been affected by the heavy rains and gusty winds of Tropical Storm Kirk. But it was business as usual even as the bizarre system made its trek just 40 miles north of the island.
So it was predictable that some Barbadians instead of breathing a sigh of relief that the adverse weather failed to materialize between last night and this morning, would have unleashed a torrent of criticism, especially on social media.
“Seriously, this is ridiculous. I wish they could get it right,” one commenter said.
“Here we go again, they promise rain, we get sun, they promise sun we get rain, not good enough,” said another.
And a third questioned, “when will they get it right?”
It is certainly understandable to be frustrated at the no-show of adverse weather, especially if significant money is spent in preparation for it or when there is disruption of personal plans. However, to claim that local forecasters always get it wrong – as we have heard it said – is simply unfair and untrue.
In their defence, meteorology has long been regarded as an imperfect science.
Weather is extremely complex and sometimes seems to have a mind of its own. The experts themselves tell us that environmental variables can change at any given time and more often than not forecasting weather conditions is a case of probabilities and possibilities – this might or might not happen.
On a daily basis, forecasters are constantly fed data to make their predictions as accurate as possible. They interpret that information by among other things, comparing it with various models or what their colleagues overseas are seeing or what they already know about certain weather patterns.
At best they assess this information and try to determine what’s going to happen.
So can we really blame them?
The fact is our meteorologists have come a long way and are far more accurate compared to years gone by, especially as technology has improved. The Barbados Meteorological Service is not as well resourced as the National Hurricane Center or the renowned Weather Channel, but we can attest that their guidance has served this island and its Caribbean neighbours well.
So for those who thought that Tropical Storm Kirk just breezed through and the Met office got it all wrong, they should think again.
We support our meteorologists in their predictions and we commend authorities for their handling of the situation. The decision to close schools for the day was the right one based on the information, and even though it turned out not to be necessary, we are all better off safe than sorry.
Perhaps we would do ourselves a service if we would use this experience as a simulation exercise for our preparedness to weather any eventuality with another two months still to go before the 2018 Hurricane season wraps up.
The fact is, while we are getting better at it, Barbadians are still too lax when it comes to natural disasters.
Last year’s catastrophic visit by Hurricanes Maria and Irma to Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, the United States Virgin Islands and Anguilla, though they stunned us for a while, the effect has since worn off and some of us still think that Barbados will always be spared.
That will not always be the case.
In light of expert warnings that storms will become more fierce and frequent, the government must therefore seek to strengthen and upgrade the Barbados Meteorological Services and Barbadians must give the agency the respect it deserves.
In any event, the evidence that our local forecasters don’t “always get it wrong” bore through this evening.
From as early as 7 p.m. a heavy downpour and brisk winds began to affect the island, reminding us that this business of predicting the weather is best left in the hands of our experts.