Editorial

Editorial

Belize needs to find a more accurate way to track storms and hurricanes to keep the population informed of exactly where the storm is.
The electronic maps showing an elongated blob of fierce weather pointing towards Belize does nothing to inform the population or to calm its fears.

Belize lies between 15.6 and 18.9 north latitude and 87.2 and 89.7 west longitude. If we know approximately where the storm is centered by its coordinates, we can track its path. We can tell how the storm is moving and make an intelligent assessment of where it is likely to go. We can then decide for ourselves what risks to take and how to react.
Reliable weather services such as Weather Underground and The National Hurricane Center provide regular bulletins giving latitude and longitude coordinates which they obtain from hurricane tracking planes. These coordinates are more precise than satellite information because they come from a physical check which penetrates the very eye of the storm.

But there are television and Facebook people who want to glamorize the forecasts to make them impressive. They give inaccurate information because oftentimes the people sharing the information are not meteorologists themselves and they honestly don’t know what they are doing. This is why they get things wrong so often.
The recent Tropical Storm Franklin seems to have fooled everybody because as it approached the mainland of Belize it did not change its forward movement from a north north-westerly path to a more westerly direction as was expected. The storm skirted the entire mainland length of Belize, and what appeared to be a dead certainty turned out to be completely ephemeral.

To show how far off most people were, the Hon. Johnny Briceno in an impassioned television address which aired around 4 o’clock Monday evening urged the people of San Pedro to take urgent measures to protect themselves. At that hour the No. 5 Advisory coordinates (18.6 north latitude and 85.9 degrees west longitude) had already put the storm well beyond the northern tip of Ambergris Caye and still 120 nautical miles offshore.

An observer plotting the course of the storm by coordinates would not have fallen into that error. He would have been more dispassionate if he was not looking at alarming television images dressed up in full colour, showing north Belize as a bulls-eye.

All we really need is a steady feed of information giving more coordinates. The National Hurricane Center provides advisories every 3 hours around the clock. This ought to be enough, but tropical storms and hurricanes sometimes make unexpected twists and turns. To obtain more timely advisories the United States would need to increase the number of hurricane flights into the eye of each storm.

This is something that Caribbean and Central American countries can ask for if needed, and since the storms which attack the Caribbean frequently impact the United States as well, maybe it is something that the Trump administration would consider.

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