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JAMAICA-WEATHER-Jamaica developing tool to forecast storm surges.

Jamaica says it is far advanced in developing a tool to forecast storm surges on the island.

Director of the Research and Mapping Unit at the Mines and Geology Division in the Ministry of Transport and Mining, Canute Ricketts, said the tool is currently at a specially selected site in Caribbean Terrace, St. Andrew, southeast of here, which has been severely affected by hurricanes.

'It was built in 2017 and since then, there have been no major storms that impacted the island to really test it, and we will have to calibrate further in order to get it to the level of accuracy that would be required to use it for any major surge forecasting,' Ricketts said.

He said the research came out of the need to accurately predict storm surges, given the devastating impact of such events on low-lying areas, noting that most of Jamaica's coastline is prone to storm surge occurrences.

'Jamaica is a small island state where the entire island is deemed a coastal area. It is one that is highly prone to storm surge occurrences, and we have a long history of storm surges dating back 300 years. 'When the first major storm surge occurred in a coastal community known as Queensland (now Passage Fort in Portmore), a 4.8-metre surge pretty much destroyed all of that development,' Ricketts said, noting that there was another storm surge in Savanna-la-Mar in 1912 that went almost 800 metres landward.

'We are seeing the same thing now with Caribbean Terrace and some other areas, so we have recognised that there is a need for storm surge forecasting. Once we are able to forecast and determine what areas are more prone to storm surges, we'd then be able to plan the coastal environment better.'

He said that the Mines and Geology Division has a role to play in the development approval process for the built environment, and the storm surge information would assist in designating areas that are prone to wave heights of a certain elevation as 'no-build zones'.

'We could also assess what type of development we are putting in a certain areas based on susceptibility to storm surge occurrences,' Ricketts said, adding that the tool that is being developed can also drive policy for the coastal environment.

'It is important for coastal design and could determine what mitigation measures can be put in place for coastal areas so you could drive planning, design and policymaking,' he said.

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Publication:CANA News
Geographic Code:5JAMA
Date:Jul 26, 2019
Words:468
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