National Meteorological Service PDF Print E-mail

Meteorological observations in Belize date back to 1887. Observations were recorded by a number of individuals and organizations such as the Surgeon General, Agriculture, Forestry and later Civil Aviation Departments.

In the early 20th century the US Weather Service established a weather observing station at the telegraph office in Belize City as part of its Caribbean network. This marked the beginning of official weather observations in Belize. That station was later given the first WMO station identifier number in the country 78583.

The Federation of the British West Indies was created in 1958 and consisted of 10 member islands. Belize (formerly British Honduras) was not a member of the Federation. However, it was a member of the regional meteorological service that was administered by the Federal Government. The regional service was divided into three regions, Eastern Caribbean, Western Caribbean and the Bahamas. Jamaica, Belize and the Cayman Islands comprised the western region. The western region was administered from the main meteorological office located at Palisados Airport, Jamaica  (presently the Norman Manley International airport). The Belize office was a synoptic observing station administered by the Civil Aviation Department. The main Regional Forecast Office in Jamaica provided public weather forecasts and severe storm warnings. It also provided aeronautical weather forecasts to the Belize International Airport. In 1962 the Federation came to an end. However, the Caribbean Meteorological Service continued as a regional service.

In 1966 the first professionally trained meteorological officer joined the Civil Aviation Department, and was charged with the responsibility of developing a National Meteorological Service. During the period 1966 to 1972 the Public and Aviation Forecasting responsibilities were gradually transferred from the forecast center in Jamaica to the Belize office. In 1967, for the first time the local weather forecast was broadcast directly from the meteorological office over the local radio station. For these broadcasts the name Belize Weather Bureau was used rather than the National Meteorological Service.

In 1972 the Meteorological Office in the Civil Aviation Department was upgraded to the National Meteorological Service in the Ministry of Energy and Communication. The newly formed department was charged with the development of specialized services in the areas of Agro meteorology, Climatology, Hydrometeorology whilst maintaining the traditional Aeronautical and Public Weather Forecasting. The offices of the new department were relocated to a new building that also housed at the time a newly acquired 10cm Weather Radar for use in the tracking of tropical storms threatening the country. With the help of the World Meteorological Organization networks of Climatological, Agrometeorological and Hydrometeorological Stations were established over most of the country. An aggressive recruiting and training program was then initiated. Using the WMO training guide, and fellowships provided by the United Kingdom and the United States of America, personnel were trained at the Class IV through Class I levels in the various fields of specialization.

In 1978, under a cooperative agreement between the United States of America and the Belize and British governments, the Upper Air and Marine Forecasting Center in Swan Island were transferred to the National Meteorological Service of Belize. Also included was a modern telecommunication system linking the National Meteorological Service of Belize and the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. Under the same program, the first in the region, Remote Automatic Meteorological Observing Stations ( RAMOS ), were installed on remote islands 50 miles east and 100 miles south of Belize City. These stations provided air and sea temperature, wind, wave height as well as other meteorological parameters. By 1981 the National Meteorological Service was transformed from an outpost meteorological station in the 1960's to a truly National Meteorological Service capable of meeting the needs of an independent Belize.

In 1990 recognizing the need for dedicated hydrological expertise to exploit Belize's hydropower potential, the Government used hydrological personnel within the National Meteorological Service to establish the National Hydrological Service. However, in 1998 the National Meteorological Service and the National Hydrological Service were amalgamated.

 

The National Meteorological Service presently provides forcast products for the general public along with those for maritime and aviation interests. Very much cognizant of the role that weather and climate plays in food security issues the Service also prepares and disseminates products geared towards the agicultural community.

The Service now has 27 staff members. The senior staff includes 4 Meteorologists trained at the BSc level or higher and 2 Electronic Technicians. In addition, there are 3 Forecasters who prepare and disseminate the daily weather forecasts. The remaining personnel (Meteorological and Electronic Technicians along with Administrative and Maintenance staff) provide varying and invaluable duties to assist the Service in providing the public with best product available in order to fulfil the mission of the National Meteorological Service of Belize.