Understanding Weather Impacts in the Caribbean

cariwiglogoThe Caribbean Weather Impact Group (CARIWIG) Project Supports Risk-Based Decision-Making in the Caribbean

Bridgetown, Barbados; February 12, 2015 – The Caribbean Weather Impacts Group (CARIWIG) project is supporting risk-based decision-making in the Caribbean region. The Project hosted a policy workshop and training event at the Savannah Hotel and at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados this week (February 10 – 12). The training exposed 34 participants, including institutional leaders and representatives from across Caribbean institutions, to a suite of tools developed under the Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) supported initiative. The four tools developed under the project for use in the Caribbean are:

Regional Climate Models and Caribbean Assessment of Regional Drought (CARiDRO)

The Caribbean Assessment Regional DROught (CARiDRO) was designed to facilitate drought assessment in the context of the Caribbean and Central America. It is a flexible system that should accommodate the requirements of different users. The online tool is composed of two main sections: a descriptive one where the user can find information on how to use the tool as well as terms and concepts that are useful. The other section is where the user can fill out a form indicate the necessary results required. CARiDRO allows the user to access and to process different observed and model datasets for the Caribbean Region to produce results based on two Drought Indexes, the Standardized Precipitation Index (McKee,1993) and the Standardized Precipitation-Evaporation Index (Serrano et al, 2010).


Weather generator

The Weather Generator provides daily weather time series for use in impact assessments and impact models. It generates weather data for the future that can be used across sectors (e.g., water, agriculture, health) in the same way as historic weather series. The main benefit and utility of the WG is that it provides information for a single point location – directly comparable to what is observed at weather stations.


The Simple Model for Advecting Storms & Hurricanes (SMASH)

SMASH is a simple model based on past memorable and notable storms that can generate grids for each 15 minute period in a modeled storm. The variables include precipitation rate and wind speed.


Portal and observed data

This web portal provides information and datasets concerning:

  • The observed climate of the present day
  • Regional Climate Model projection of the future climate
  • Future scenarios of weather downscaled from the Regional Climate Model projections
  • Scenarios of weather derived from hypothetical tropical cyclone events

This web portal is intended for use by regional and national institutions, consultants and scientists concerned with the climate and impacts of future climate change in the Caribbean region. Accordingly, a considerable degree of contextual knowledge of climate change and its impacts, and analytical expertise is assumed.

Further information on the project:  http://www.cariwig.org/

The tools will provide an open access online resource, and will advance efforts under the project to provide locally relevant and unbiased climate change information that is specific to the Caribbean and relevant to the region’s planning horizons. The integration of the tools into national policy agendas across the region is crucial to ensuring effective decision-making and improving climate knowledge and action in the region. It is a significant “contribution to the body of knowledge to aid in decision-making. Benefits will come through people being sensitized about what is Climate Change and their singular responsibility to engage in climate resilient actions based on their understanding of climate vulnerabilities and impacts,” according to Keith Nichols, the CCCCC’s project development specialist.

The efficacy of the tools in strengthening climate decision-making and planning in the Caribbean is being tested through ten case studies focussed on areas such as drought, agriculture, water resources, coastal zone structures, health (dengue fever), and urban development and flooding. The case studies offer a real-world testing ground for the demonstration and enhancement of the utility of the four CARIWIG tools for regional decision-making and the building of capacity regionally through training exercises.

The CARIWIG project is being implemented collaboratively by Newcastle University, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), the University of East Anglia, the University of the West Indies and the Institute of Meteorology in Cuba (INSMET).


Environmental Risks and Big Data @nclceser @cranfielduni @Cambridge_Uni @unibirmingham @NERCscience @gregclarkmp

A consortium of four leading UK universities, including Newcastle, has been awarded £2.5m to train the next generation of researchers to become experts at assessing and mitigating environmental risk using Big Data.

Funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the aim of the new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) is to produce researchers who can use large or complex datasets to understand and ease the risks posed by a range of societal and environmental changes, such as a rapidly expanding population, limited natural resources, and natural hazards.

Experts at Newcastle University, along with colleagues from Cranfield, Birmingham and Cambridge universities will lead the new DREAM (Data, Risk and Environmental Analytical Methods) consortium, supporting 30 PhD students to develop the key skills needed in these emerging fields.

Newcastle’s involvement is led by CESER academics Dr Stuart Barr and Professor Chris Kilsby in the School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences.

Dr Barr, a senior lecturer at Newcastle University, explains: “As our ability to monitor the Earth’s processes improves – collecting data from a wide range of sources from satellite observations through to ‘crowd sourcing’ – it is imperative that modern environmental scientists are able to analyse and use this data to its full potential.

“The aim is to train the next generation of risk specialists who will be able to seize the opportunities of ‘big data’ analytics to improve our understanding of environmental risk mitigation options for industry, businesses, government and society.”

As identified by the recent BIS data strategy – Seizing the Data Opportunity – the UK has some of the best universities and institutes in the world, some truly innovative small businesses, and some of the richest historic datasets of any country.

This means there is potential to produce a new generation of risk scientists able to maximise the opportunities big data offers, filling a skills shortage in this area. The CDT is a direct response to this shortage.

Minister for Universities, Science & Cities, Greg Clark, said: “In this fast-moving, digital world, the ability to handle and analyse large volumes of complex data is vital for the UK to maintain its competitive edge.  That is why the government identified Big Data as one of our 8 Great Technologies and central to our Industrial Strategy.

“This £2.5 million investment to train the next generation of Big Data experts will enable a skilled workforce to develop innovative tools to assess and mitigate risk that will help business, government and wider society cope effectively with big environmental and societal changes.”

Professor Duncan Wingham, chief executive of NERC, said: “We are becoming increasingly in need of a sophisticated understanding of changes, such as highly interdependent economies, a fast expanding and ageing population and climate change, that affect all of our lives. Decision makers in business, government and wider society need to understand these risks so that they can develop the most appropriate strategies to respond to them.”

“NERC’s new Centre for Doctoral Training will equip tomorrow’s researchers with the skills necessary to maximise the opportunities big data offers to develop risk analysis, contributing to this important area of the economy.”

Funding for ten studentships will be awarded each year. The CDT award will provide funding for three years of new student intake – 30 studentships in total – from 2015 to 2016. Two of the studentships in the 2016 cohort will be interdisciplinary and co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and NERC.

Students will gain advanced technical skills, be regularly brought together as a cohort to share ideas and skills, and have the opportunity to take part in partner-based secondments.

CDTs support strategically-targeted, focused PhD studentships aimed at addressing specific research and skills gaps identified by NERC and our partners.

In a related project, NERC recently launched a £5m strategic innovation initiative, called Environmental Risks to Infrastructure Innovation Programme (ERIIP), to help protect some of Britain’s most important national infrastructure from environmental hazards. The programme will give decision-makers in areas such as energy, transport and water improved access to NERC’s world-class environmental science.