Dr. Arlene Laing

(Coordinating Director of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization)

Caribbean Weather and Climate: Opportunities and Challenges in Research, Applications, and Operational Forecasting

What Tarbell Lecture in Meteorology Meteo Colloquium
When Oct 02, 2019
from 03:30 pm to 04:30 pm
Where 112 Walker Building, John J. Cahir Auditorium
Contact Name Jenni Evans
Contact email
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Arlene Laing

Arlene Laing
Coordinating Director
Caribbean Meteorological Organization (CMO)
Headquarters Unit, Trinidad and Tobago 

The Caribbean is one of the most hazard-prone regions of the world and vulnerable to weather and climate extremes, thus providing motivation, and serving as a natural laboratory, for tropical meteorology research.  The region is marked by hurricanes; Saharan dust outbreaks; heavy rainfall, strong winds rough seas and floods, from tropical waves, cold fronts, upper level troughs, and other weather systems; and seasonal and inter-annual droughts.  It is an opportune time to explore scientific and related societal challenges in the Caribbean and to develop solutions to meet the challenges wrought by high impact weather and climate extremes. 

The region has hosted numerous field studies, which provided ground-breaking knowledge of the tropical atmospheric structure, tropical cyclone genesis, trade wind clouds, tropical waves, Saharan dust transport, to name a few.  As their scientific and technical capabilities have grown, Caribbean institutions have become leaders in scientific exploration, with research targeted to the critical needs of the region, focusing on weather and climate-sensitive sectors, such as disaster risk management, agriculture, public health, water resources, energy, and tourism. 

Great advances have been made in predicting severe weather in the extra-tropics, yet those benefits have not been fully exploited in the Caribbean.  Convection-permitting models, which ingest radar and other high-resolution data are routinely used in the mid-latitudes.  Research is needed to determine how to configure and verify those models for regions like the Caribbean, with small islands and wide oceanic spaces that have sparse surface observations.  The data gaps represent opportunities for exploiting new types of remote sensing data and developing low-cost instruments to supplement the existing network. 

There is also a critical need for skillful prediction of sub-seasonal tropical circulations, which influence the intensity, frequency, location, and movement of organized convective weather systems. For example, knowledge of the geographic and temporal clustering of tropical cyclones would help with regional and international mobilization. During 2017, the northeastern and northern Caribbean islands were overwhelmed by the quick succession of multiple tropical cyclones, including two Category-5 hurricanes.  Additionally, there is a need to understand how the frequency and intensity of these systems may be affected by more variable climatic conditions. 

Recognizing that the value of a forecast lies in its use in decision-making process, effective communication of the forecast and the impacts of the expected weather is crucial. Many National Meteorological Services need to develop appropriate messaging, which entails employing social and behavioral science expertise and a variety of communication technologies. Additionally, with regional governments desiring to make the Caribbean climate-resilient comes the need to  improve the quality of climate information and to apply that information to reduce risks due to climate variability and climate change. 

The talk will highlight the work of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), which is the technical and training arm of the Caribbean Meteorological Organization; the University of the West Indies; the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the National Meteorological and Hydrometeorological Services of CMO Member States. These Caribbean institutions are seeking to attract anyone interested in tropical meteorology and climate research and in translating that research into operational meteorology and climate actions.