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Met Office breaking new ground with Agro-Met Forecasts

        PORT OF SPAIN, Dec 31 2013 (IPS) - In the southwest peninsula of Cedros, one of Trinidad’s driest areas, Jenson Alexander grows the cocoa used for many years by the British chocolate giant Cadbury. Dry conditions mean that he frequently faces bush fires, a challenge compounded by increasing climate variability that makes it difficult to predict when an extended dry season, and the fires that accompany it, are likely to occur.


      So in May, when the Trinidad and Tobago Meteorological Service (TTMS) began issuing weather bulletins specifically to keep farmers updated on expected weather conditions, he found a measure of relief. “Before, it was difficult when you were expecting to have rain and [instead] you were having drought…and bush fires,” Alexander told IPS. The 10-day bulletins for farmers that the TTMS issues have considerably reduced the uncertainty, he said. “Now we have updates, we can plan better, if we are having an extended dry season. So bush fires won’t affect us” as they did before, he said. Kenneth Kerr, a climate meteorologist at TTMS, told IPS that “cocoa farmers have indicated that they found the bulletins very useful.” Trinidad boasts some of the finest cocoa in the world and the makers of Cadbury chocolate once owned and operated a cocoa estate in the island. Kerr is one of two meteorologists in Trinidad and Tobago who produce 10-day forecasts geared specifically to the farming community.


     The other, Arlene Aaron-Morrison, is a trained Agrometeorologist as well as a Climatologist. Aaron-Morrison explains that the work of a meteorologist differs somewhat from that of an Agrometeorologist. “The focus is different,” she said. “A meteorologist focuses on aviation meteorology while the agrometeorologist focuses on agriculture.” The decision to provide climate forecasts specifically for farmers came out of a joint initiative launched in 2010 by the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, the World Meteorological Organisation, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute, and the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services of 10 Caribbean countries. This initiative is known as the Caribbean Agrometeorological Initiative (CAMI).

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