New Model for MET office

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Published 26th June 2006, 9:32am

Cayman's Meteorological (Met) Office has a new storm surge model, The Arbiter of Storm (TAOS).

Senior Manager of Meteorological Services Mr Fred Sambula said, "With increased rigour, we sought storm surge atlases shortly after Ivan." The TAOS model, designed to eliminate some of the difficulties of previous models, requires minimum data (location and maximum wind speed) to predict a time series for storm surge, winds and waves at selected locations.

Mr Horace Burton, Chief Meteorologist, and Mr Selvin Burton, Chief of Data and Information Services of the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology in Barbados, presented this model to members of the Met Office, Lands and Survey and the National Hurricane Committee (NHC) at a workshop earlier this month. Refining a design created by Charles Watson, the twin scientist brothers focussed on the Caribbean region. Cayman is one of the nine Caribbean countries which they examined.

The main thrust of the seminar was storm surge and wave action caused by the wind, which are the most damaging agents in any storm. Storm surge is water penetrating inland; if the region is flat (like Cayman), maximum wind speeds will bring significant increases in water levels. "Continuation of wave action brings in water, but that is not storm surge. Waves ride on top of the surge," Mr Sambula clarified.

The model, its "possible uses far outweigh its limitations" according to Mr Selvin Burton, was researched, tested and verified before it was presented. Designed specifically for the Cayman Islands, it is a tool that gives "pictorial information on possible impacts and predicts how storm surge affects the coastline," Mr Sambula said.

According to Mr Horace Burton, Cayman will average four hurricanes every five years, with August and September being the most active months. Within the Caribbean region, loss of life has decreased but loss of property has increased, due to accelerated property development in coastal zones. Cayman is a prime example of this; since tourism is a major industry, coastal construction will continue.

NHC Chairman Mr Donnie Ebanks concluded, "We are grateful for the effort, as this has been an area of interest for a long time. This is the right season to see what has been produced."