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Jun 8, 2016

4th Annual Climate Outlook Forum

On Tuesday the National Meteorological Service of Belize hosted its fourth Climate Outlook Forum. The twice yearly session included representation from different sectors, gathered together to discuss how the forecast services provided by the Met Office works for them. Mike Rudon was in Belmopan and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

The Met Office’s interactive forum is held twice a year – at the start of the wet season and the start of the dry season. Invited stakeholders include representatives from Agriculture, Health, Tourism, Disaster Services, Utility Services and Energy – those agencieswhich actually utilize the climate forecast presented.


Catherine Cumberbatch

Catherine Cumberbatch, Deputy Chief Meteorological Officer

“The forecast actually is to present season outlook forecast to the stakeholders and to find out now that they receive this product, what does this product mean to their different sectors? How will they utilize it? Is it useful? So it’s actually a consultation and discussion between us and the different stakeholders about the product, the climate service product that we are producing at the National Meteorological Service of Belize. From the report that we get back, the discussion that we get back when they break up into their groups, they say how it was useful for them and some other people request that they need a little bit more information, so that makes us go back to the table and see how we can provide additional information to the different stakeholders to help them in their decision-making using the climate service product that we are producing.”


The Agriculture Department, particularly, has reason to be present because that industry depends on the climatic factors for its very survival.


Andrew Harrison

Andrew Harrison, Climate Change Focal Point, Ministry of Agriculture

“We have two kinds of information we get, the four day forecast and the three month outlook. Two of them combined help us a lot in deciding what we do in the fields. For example the three month outlook for right now for the northern part of Belize is below normal rainfall, so the planning we can do is that in the field we must look at how much we plant or the density of plants we put in the field so that they have enough moisture, the soil will have enough moisture for the plants. And at the moment we have the four day forecast which will tell us what can happen in the next four days so that is especially important right now because it’s the planting season and we want to make sure when we plant we expect some moisture for the seeds to germinate.”


If you don’t quite understand just how important this all is, let’s look back at 2015. Farmers in southern Orange Walk planted corn expecting rain to fall within days as usual. It never did and that resulted in millions of dollars in losses.


Andrew Harrison

“Those are extreme events, unexpected, but I think the information was out there but wasn’t disseminated as well as we would like. Because a forecast comes with a lot of probability. It may or may not happen. For example right now the forecast is for below normal rainfall, but a storm can come any moment and that can turn anything – a spike in precipitation so it will defeat the forecast.”


The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology is also a part of the forum, supporting the National Met Service in discussion forecasts and implications with stakeholders. The CIMH also explores areas in which they can partner with climate sensitive agencies to build better products and services to better benefit the sectors.


Adrian Trotman

Dr. Adrian Trotman, Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology

“The information you provide, that you spend so much time and energy and capacity on…if nobody uses it then it’s useless. If they look at it but it doesn’t make any difference to them one way or another then it’s irrelevant. So we have to make it relevant and useful and usable – something that when they for example – forecasts might suggest that the next three to six months might be dry – we’re expecting rain but it will be dryer. Does that make you do anything differently.”


And that, in a nutshell, is the purpose of the entire forum – making the message relevant and effective so that the entire country benefits.  Mike Rudon for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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