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Met Office gets $5.2m to upgrade radar software

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


THE Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) yesterday handed over a cheque for $5.2 million to the Meteorological Service (Met Service) of Jamaica to facilitate upgrading of its radar software.

Chairman of ODPEM board, Danville Walker, speaking at the handing-over ceremony at the agency's headquarters on Haining Road in New Kingston, informed that the grant was taken from the National Disaster Fund.

He said that as a critical partner in the disaster preparedness process, it is important that the Met Service is provided with the proper technology and equipment to effectively carry out its work. "The Met Office can only be as good as the technology that is available to it and we're committed, even with our own meager resources, to share them with you," he stated.

Acting director of the Met Service, Jeffery Spooner expressed gratitude to ODPEM for the grant, noting that it will "put us in a better position to provide the requisite surveillance and to support the country's early warning system."

The grant to the Met Service will provide for the replacement of its old system with the upgraded (Enterprise Doppler Graphic Environment) EDGE 5.0 package, which was developed to provide the most comprehensive set of features for weather analysis.

Spooner explained that the existing Doppler weather surveillance radar, installed in 1999 to replace the old analog radar that was severely damaged by Hurricane Gilbert in 1986, has been encountering periods of downtime in recent months and the EDGE application software crashed sometime ago.

"This had forced the radar observers to perform their task using workstations that were intended solely for maintenance purposes, making it impossible to effectively discharge their duties to the nation," he remarked.

The manufacturers of the radar indicated that the version of the EDGE software being used had become obsolete and recommended the EDGE 5.0 upgraded package to be procured, along with the requisite hardware and three years software maintenance and support.

Spooner said the new system will allow the Met Service to fully utilise the Doppler radar once again, to among other things, "pinpoint exact features of a weather system, for example the longitude and latitude, the eye of the hurricane, and where it is moving to, in very short time."

"In other words, it will enable us to effectively monitor and track monster hurricanes, which are increasing with frequency and intensity and have been very ravishing to our infrastructure," he said.

The new software, he noted further, will also help in delineating rainfall catchment areas and to analyse rainfall intensity and the potential for flooding.

He informed that the system will also pinpoint where freak storms are taking place. "These are rapid developments in thunder storm clouds and with (its) three dimensional (3D) features, we're able to tell how winds are behaving and be able to pinpoint again where these damaging features are developing, and of course, will help us in early warning," he added.

This upgraded software will also allow for the transfer of the radar image from the radar section to the meteorological website, which will now become available to the entire nation. Information on the website will entail very useful information in real time that will allow citizens to see what is happening, Mr. Spooner said.

Director general of ODPEM, Ronald Jackson said he is looking forward to the installation of the new system, as it provides a number of critical features that will be beneficial to the ODPEM in carrying out its functions.

— JIS



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