Weather conference opens tomorrow
By K. NANCOO-RUSSELL
Freeport News Reporter
The Ministry of Tourism is gearing up for the opening of the 12th annual Bahamas Weather Conference tomorrow at the Our Lucaya Resort.
Approximately 100 meteorologists from the United States, Canada, and Europe are expected to converge on the island for the five-day event, which is aimed at raising awareness of the particular concerns and geographical features of the islands of The Bahamas.
During a press conference yesterday, Kerry Fountain, executive director of tourism, noted that the conference has earned a loyal following among those in the weather industry and many awards for its effectiveness as a crisis communications programme.
Fountain explained that the Ministry of Tourism was the first to address the topic of hurricanes directly, creating the Bahamas Weather Conference in 1997.
"With the GDP highly dependent upon tourism, accurate reporting on tropical storms is a critical factor in maintaining a healthy economy. The principal aim of the Conference has always been to educate attendees about the geography of the 700 island destination which covers 100,000 square miles of the Western Atlantic Ocean," he said.
The value of the conference, he furthered, has also been recognized by the National Weather Association and the American Meteorological Society, and both professional organizations extend continuing education credit to their members who attend the conference.
The director pointed out that the former director of the National Hurricane Centre and moderator, Max May-field, has planned a full agenda for the conference that will present a range of familiar topics on hurricanes.
Among the speakers lined up to address attendees are Bill Read, recently appointed director of the National Hurricane Center, who will present a review of the 2007 Atlantic season and a welcome introduction to the audience of broadcast meteorologists.
Dr. Phillip Klotzbach from Colorado State University will present the forecast for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season and offer some analysis on why 2007 was a far quieter season for the U.S. than expected.
The pioneer of the seasonal forecast, Dr. William Gray, will also present and add historical perspective on the forecast process.
Attendees can also expect to hear from a line-up of experts from throughout the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will explore hurricanes in the context of our changing climate including presentations from Dr. Tom Karl, Dr. Richard Knabb and Tom Knutson.
Dr. Nicholas Coch of Queens College, accompanied by additional presentations from Dr. Wilson Shaffer of NOAA, and David Vallee and Mike Wyllie of the National Weather Service, will consider what the impact of a hurricane strike on New York and the region might be.
Donna Duncombe, chief meteorologist at the Freeport Weather Department, will also be addressing the group about Hurricane Noel and its impact on Grand Bahama.
Duncombe said the conference was highly anticipated by both foreign and local weather personnel and was expected to be very informative and interesting.
"We're looking forward to having a great time at this conference. With 100 meteorologists expected to be in attendance, we're looking forward to a good time of exchange among the group," she said.
"Being able to exchange some of the concerns and issues we have in dealing with the general public is very helpful," she said.
Duncombe noted that the 2007 hurricane season, although an active one with 15 named systems, was fairly quiet in terms of landfalling systems for the United States and The Bahamas.
"We had the one system that moved through The Bahamas, hurricane Noel, which moved through as a tropical storm and became a hurricane just after it left, but we just had that one system out of the 15 storms that occurred during the season," she said.
"We will also be looking at the climate factors that might have contributed to the activity of the season," she said.
Fountain said participants at the event will have the opportunity to utilize the on-site satellite television facility provided to share insights from the conference with viewers at home.
"Millions of viewers in markets from Houston to Baton Rouge Louisiana, Mobile Alabama, Tampa Florida, Miami Florida, Atlanta Georgia, Washington D.C., New York and Boston, Massachusetts have benefited from information relayed by their favourite local weather person from the sunny Bahamas," he said, adding that the Weather Channel and CBC Newsworld in Canada will also broadcast highlights of the conference across North America.
Launched in 2006, the Bahamas Weather Conference VODcast Centre brings key messages from the conference to a whole new audience through video podcasts available on demand or via iTunes subscription, he explained.
"Throughout the conference expert speakers are interviewed and the short, informational interviews are made available for Internet usage or broadcast. This development has allowed The Bahamas to expand the reach of the conference to a far greater number than could ever attend," he said.
© 2008 The Freeport News