Sunday, April 14, 2024

For the love of weather


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For the past 40 years he has kept Barbados abreast on whether to expect sunny skies or rainy days. He is meteorologist Hampden Lovell, acting director of the Barbados Meteorological Services.
While he was at school, clouds caught his fancy and his intrigue with the weather resulted in him becoming a meteorological assistant in 1971. Also called an observer, Lovell said he did just that – observe the atmosphere.
It was his duty to go outside and collect weather data that included if there was rain, the level of visibility, lightning, thunder or showers in the distance. Then, using the measuring instruments, he would read the temperature, pressure, wind speed and direction.
The data, in a written, coded digital form, was entered in the register and sent to the control tower.
The tower would then use the data to prepare flight information so pilots would have an idea of the winds in order to decide how much fuel was needed, what flight path to take or whether there were weather systems to avoid.
As acting director of the Barbados Meteorological Services, Lovell admitted that he hardly got the chance to practise meteorology. However, from June to November, he was very involved because of hurricane season.
“During this time, before I go to bed, I make sure to check the radar, satellite and the National Hurricane Centre [in Miami] to see if anything is out there to the east of us. When I wake, before I come to work, that is the first thing I do as well. I don’t want to be caught napping. I don’t want to be driving and hear something on the radio and have no idea.”
When it comes to predicting how many hurricanes would develop during the hurricane season, Lovell said there was a group of scientists who specialized in that area and they made their determinations based on empirical data collected over a number of years, the el Niño or la Niña event, the sea surface temperature, among other factors.
He reminded, though, that it was just a forecast and Caribbean people should still be prepared even though forecasters might say that the season would not be an active one.
“ . . . Because for small countries like those in the Caribbean, it only takes one hurricane to come and wipe out the entire island chain.”
Lovell also responded to the claim that the Meteorological Office “does not get it right”.
Meteorology, he said, was a growing science and researchers had been able to track storms successfully and could tell where they were going, how fast they were moving and how many miles away from a land mass they were expected to pass fairly accurately.


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