Regional project strengthens early warnings in the Caribbean

Source(s): World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
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CREWS in the Caribbean

A successful three and a half-year project in the Caribbean has demonstrated the benefits of strong collaboration between development agencies and local partner and of better weather, water and climate services to save lives and livelihoods of vulnerable communities.

It showcases practical tools and policy-making priorities to ensure the achievement of the international campaign to ensure that early warnings reach everyone on the planet by the end of 2027 and is an important regional contribution to the Early Warnings for All initiative.The US$ 6.5 million Strengthening Hydro-Meteorological and Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean (CREWS Caribbean) project, led by WMO in collaboration with the World Bank GFDRR and UNDRR, and funded by the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative, addressed gaps in Early Warning Services (EWS) which were identified in an assessment of the devastating 2017 Caribbean hurricane season. The project targeted CARICOM members, and worked at the regional, national and local level.

The Caribbean region is highly exposed to severe hydrometeorological hazards such as hurricanes and tropical storms, floods, landslides, and storm surges. Exposure and vulnerabilities vary across different islands, and socioeconomic development, infrastructure, ecosystems, and access to resources and information play a role in determining the level of vulnerability to these hazards.

According to the World Bank, every year, the region suffers from over US$ 1.6 billion in damages  triggered by natural hazards. Advances in science and technology make it possible to forecast hazards and disseminate warnings, but more can be done to strengthen understanding of the potential impact of complex hazards so that countries and communities can take appropriate anticipatory action.

The CREWS Caribbean project equipped the region with tools to better prepare for hazards in the future through several key deliverables including:

  • The development of a Strategic Roadmap for Advancing Multi-hazard Impact Based Early Warning Systems in the Caribbean;
  • The development of Model Legislation and Policies, adapted to national circumstances in Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • The development and endorsement of National Strategic Plans including Frameworks for Weather, Water and Climate Services for Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos Islands, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines;
  • Support for the implementation of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) in Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Turks and Caicos;
  • The development of Risk Information Exchange repositories for Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to support their transitions to Impact Based Forecasting (IBF); and
  • The development of the Caribbean Severe Weather Case Database and improvements in severe weather forecasting skills through training workshops
  • The implementation of Community Based Flood Management Activities in Antigua and Barbuda and Trinidad and Tobago.

Dr. Arlene Laing, Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization, noted that “Meteorological Legislation, Policy and the National Strategic Plans and Frameworks are foundational to strengthening the hydro-meteorological services of Caribbean Member States. They help NMHSs to establish appropriate legal mandates with well-defined roles, responsibilities and adequate resources to support their national economies, better predict high-impact hydro-meteorological events and correlated hazards,  and deliver user-oriented services.”

“Against this background, the CREWS Caribbean project closed an important gap in respective countries, as it provided clear legal mandates in the Caribbean, where most National Meteorological Services have been operating in the absence of specific legislation or updated strategic plans,” said Dr Laing.

Through the project, WMO also collaborated with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)  the Meteorological Service of Jamaica, and other international partners to support the Building Resilience Through Climate Adaptation Technologies (BReTCAT) Project. This project saw the development of a weather application for the Meteorological Service of Jamaica.

On 25 June, the Meteorological Service of Jamaica launched “The Jamaica Weather App”, an easy-to-use, accessible weather app for smartphones. It provides hourly forecasts for all locations on the island, with a five-day lead time. It will also send alerts for severe weather. With more than 1.8 million smartphone users in the country, this should better equip citizens to react to warnings as necessary.

The way forward

In June 2023, the Climate Risk and Early Warning Systems (CREWS) Initiative steering committee members approved funding for a new three-year, US$ 7 million project in the region. The project, currently in its development phase, will be led by WMO and UNDRR, and will be strongly aligned with the Early Warnings for All Initiative. It will look to effectively strengthen Multi-Hazard Early Warning Systems (MHEWS) through improved disaster risk knowledge, strengthened service provision by National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) and National Disaster Management Offices (NDMOs), and strengthened warning dissemination capabilities, with a special focus on reaching the last mile. Proposed project components include:

  1. Strengthening MHEWS governance at the regional level
  2. Improving disaster risk knowledge at the regional, national, and local level
  3. Strengthening NMHS service provision (including observations, monitoring, analysis, and forecasting) at the regional and national level
  4. Supporting warning dissemination and communication, preparedness, and response capabilities at the regional, national and local level

The project is expected to commence in the last quarter of 2023.

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Themes Early warning
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