Annually on the 23rd March the meteorological community celebrates World Meteorological Day with the objective to build public awareness of the services provided by National Meteorological Services. These services involve the observation, collection, processing and dissemination of meteorological, hydrological and other related data and products. Each year the day is commemorated under the banner of a particular theme that reflects the importance and relevance of these services to mankind. This year’s theme is “Watching the weather to protect life and property.” This theme focuses attention on the crucial role the meteorological services play in strengthening safety and resilience to weather events.

The 23rd March marks the coming into force of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the signing of the charter establishing the Organization which is now 191 countries strong. Over the past 50 years watching and predicting the weather has become a highly sophisticated scientific activity, in particular in protecting life and property. Improved scientific weather forecasting has saved many lives and contributed enormously to sustainable development globally and Belize is no exception. Everyone from farmer, city planner, water manager, disaster manager, tour guide, to government officials has benefited from modern weather and climate services.

Networks of observation stations form the foundation to scientific weather predictions. Underscoring the theme for World Meteorological Day 2013 “Watching the weather to protect life and property” the National Meteorological Service (NMS) of Belize is in the process of upgrading its observation network with the installation of a suite of automatic weather stations to be completed this year. These will provide real time observations of critical weather elements both over land and out at sea. In addition, in the upcoming month or so the Service receives a state-of-the art satellite receiving system to capture and display near real-time satellite images. These will complement the already available Doppler radar scans. To ensure an uninterrupted stream of observations and data the NMS is also acquiring a secondary backup communication system later in the year. This will prevent any likelihood of a blackout or unavailability of data.

Until the 1980’s meteorologists were only able to provide forecasts for up to two or possibly three days in advance. As the science and understanding of the weather continues to improve today’s forecasts now extend out to five days. The National Meteorological Service of Belize has even ventured out to produce seasonal climate outlooks covering periods of up to three months. These outlooks contain actionable climate information for making decisions on water resources, electrical power generation, agriculture, fisheries, tourism, transport and other weather-sensitive sectors. Such science-based climate information can be incorporated into planning, policy and practice to achieve tangible societal benefits. To add further value and applicability to the products now being produced by the NMS there will be a need to invest in new instruments for improving observations of currently monitored variables as well as for detecting variables that are not yet being measured routinely. Recognizing the future needs and demands the National Meteorological Service continues to work earnestly towards this end of “Watching the weather to protect life and property” as stated in the theme for World Meteorological Day 2013.

National Meteorological Service of Belize