Barbados is being used as the base for a major scientific project that’s expected to lead to improved weather and climate predictions for the region and the world.
On January 7, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), attached to the U.S Department of Commerce, launched the scientific project called Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign (ATOMIC).
The mission is the U.S component of a collaborative effort between the United States, Germany, France, United Kingdom and Barbados called EURECA (Elucidating the Role of Clouds-Circulation Coupling in Climate).
For six weeks, teams of scientists aboard ships and aircraft, using multiple human-piloted and autonomous vehicles, will study how the ocean and atmosphere work together to create the weather and climate.
ATOMIC will focus primarily on how the ocean provides moisture and heat to make clouds that are close to it and how those clouds impact the humidity and ocean temperature.
Speaking during the opening of the campaign at the Grantley Adams International Airport, Seawell, Christ Church, Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, noted that Barbados was yet to acquire the resources, capacity, and science to carry out such an important project.
He said it was therefore important for Barbados to work with international partners to put itself in the position to become the best informed nation in the Caribbean.
“We are using science to make decisions that would be of advantage to all Barbadians and to the advantage of Barbados. We are also discussing with the United States the possibility of having more Barbadians onboard their vessels so that Barbadians can see and learn and observe what is happening in practice and how to respond in real time,” Humphrey said.
From January 7 through to February 13, the NOAA research team will travel to Barbados’ east to take measurements of different variables in both the air and the sea.
To measure all of the air and sea processes at once, the U.S mission will gather observations using instruments on NOAA Ship Ronald H Brown, NOAA WP-3D Orion aircraft, several human piloted and autonomous vehicles, as well as ocean surface floats.
The research team will also compare measurements from the autonomous systems to long-term data from two NOAA ocean observing sites: The Northwest Atlantic Station (NTAS) buoy and the Meridional Overturning Variability Experiment (MOVE) mooring site. EURECA will contribute four aircraft, three ships, and multiple autonomous systems.
NOAA’s Deputy Administrator Tim Gallaudet said when the project is completed Barbados and other Caribbean islands can look forward to a significant improvement in hurricane predictions.
“Barbados, for example, will have a longer time to know if a hurricane is going to make landfall here and that would allow citizens to better prepare, plan and be safe,” Gallaudet said.
US Ambassador Linda Taglialatela noted that for more than 50 years, the United States through NOAA and other U.S. agencies has worked closely with Barbados, the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, and other Caribbean countries to study weather and atmospheric conditions.
She said the United States’ first cooperation with Barbados on weather and climate conditions was the Barbados Oceanographic and Meteorological Experiment (BOMEX), a massive scientific field campaign conducted in 1969.
The Ambassador also added that NOAA’s National Hurricane Centre works with partners across the Caribbean to coordinate hurricane analyses, forecasts, watches, and warnings.
“NOAA also frequently flies research aircraft from Barbados to conduct operational forecasting to better prepare for current storms and more accurately predict future storms. Flying from Barbados allows NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft to reach storms earlier in their development, allow for better preparation across the entire region and beyond. In 2018-2019, NOAA flew 16 missions from Barbados: four for operational forecasting, 10 for research, and even two for search and rescue operations,” Taglialatela said.
Members of the media and officials got the opportunity to tour NOAA’s hurricane hunter, and the French and British aircraft that would be involved in the project. (AH)