EU team evaluates Cayman's Doppler weather radar system

An evaluation of how the Doppler weather radar system is working in the Cayman Islands brought a team from the European Union to the islands recently. 

The team is preparing a report on how the joint EU-Cayman Islands project could help with programs like this in the future. 

A grant from the EU paid for the 4 million euro (US$4.5 million) Doppler radar system that has been in use on island since early 2013. The system added more coverage to a regional radar network, giving a fuller picture of storm activity across the Caribbean that feeds into an international mosaic of Doppler coverage. 

Murray Phillips, who led the evaluation for EU consultant B&S Europe, said in a statement, “So far from our interviews within the local community, the response to the radar project has shown great interest, knowledge and has been extremely positive.” 

Doppler radar technology can cut through clouds seen in satellite views and estimate how hard rain is falling in the brightly colored maps that are nearly ubiquitous in weather forecasts. 

The radar has been down several times in the past year, most recently for more than two weeks in June. The system went down just after a tropical wave that dumped nearly 10 inches of rain on Grand Cayman in three days, the third biggest rainfall in the past 10 years. 

National Weather Service Director General John Tibbetts blamed the June failure on a broken gearbox in the German-made radar. A technician with the weather service tried to fix the problem, but ultimately a German technician had to come to Cayman to get the system back up and running. 

The radar, in East End’s High Rock area, covers up to 250 miles from Grand Cayman. The images connect with other radar systems in Cuba, Jamaica and Mexico to give a better picture of storms in the western Caribbean, said NWS forecaster Avalon Porter, who was interviewed while the radar was down in June. 

The radar, he said, “fills a void in the northwest Caribbean.” But he notes that Cayman’s forecasters operated without the brightly colored rain maps, relying on satellite imagery. 

The EU assessment follows up on an earlier financial audit of the project. 

“The report we will produce completes an overall assessment of the success of the project in achieving its overall objectives as envisaged by the EU delegation in Jamaica and the government of the Cayman Islands,” Mr. Phillips said. 

The most recent work by the consultants here, according to the National Weather Service, looked at the infrastructure, including analyzing building quality and construction, time delays and ensuring the facility meets local engineering and building code requirements. 

The weather service statement notes, “The report will evaluate some seven important EU criteria: relevance, effectiveness, efficiency, impact, sustainability, coherence [compliance with local policies] and added value to the community.” 

The facilities evaluation and audit will be combined into one report for the EU. 

The release from the weather service states, “The report will among other things provide a reference for the Government of the Cayman Islands regarding capacity building in important national institutions during the course of implementing large scale national projects such as the radar project. 

“Additionally, the final evaluation report will provide the EU with valuable insights which will be useful in informing future similarly funded projects, both regionally and in other parts of the world.” 

B&S did not return requests for comment and did not say when the report will be delivered to the EU or made public. 

Cayman’s Doppler radar system fills a gap in a regional network of weather radar coverage.