Weathering the storm with better data

“Sometimes for months we don’t get no rain and when we get it, we get it hard.”  

Jacqueline Johnson seemed exasperated as she looked up and down her street. In just one afternoon, her neighborhood of Crescent District in Bog Walk, Jamaica saw a torrential downpour that sent mud-stained waters barreling through her community. The floods rose as high as her ankles.

Residents of the Bog Walk Gorge know the drill. Without batting an eye, children removed their shoes to continue their commute home from school. Cars slowed to a glacial pace to outmaneuver the rising waters.

And just a few yards away, local law enforcement awaited a signal from national authorities to cordon off the most vulnerable parts of Bog Walk and prevent oncoming cars from getting trapped in the floods.

All according to plan. This protocol is part of Jamaica’s wide-ranging effort to better prepare for weather-related disasters and build resilience to the worsening consequences of climate change. With support from the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) and the World Bank under the Improving Climate Data and Information Management Project, Jamaica is working to improve capacity for weather and water monitoring and data collection so that decisionmakers can improve preparedness and obtain accurate information in times of crisis.

The multimillion-dollar investment is supporting the installation of 35 weather stations across the country, comprising the Caribbean’s first real-time weather reporting system. Knowing exactly when, where, and how weather patterns are changing is important. It protects lives, livelihoods, and infrastructure.

“[In recent events,] forecasters were able to issue releases quicker than [before],” said Jacqueline Spence, head of the climate division at Jamaica’s Meteorological Service. “This allows information to come in a lot quicker, and therefore we can act quicker to send out [warnings],” said Jacqueline Spence, head of the climate division at Jamaica’s Meteorological Service.

In addition to improving disaster planning and information quality in emergency situations, the weather and hydrological stations are helping authorities develop a more complete picture of Jamaica’s climate patterns over longer periods of time. Preceding CIF’s partnership, faulty equipment limited data capture to only certain points in the year. Now, officials have a full year’s worth of data they can use to develop comprehensive climate analyses. 

The investment comes in response to Jamaica’s deteriorating weather and water data infrastructure. Over the years, what were once 23 weather stations had dwindled to just six functioning stations. The country’s 20-year old Doppler Weather Radar, which is set to be replaced as part of CIF’s investment, is in constant need of repair and relies on technology that experts consider to be obsolete.

“I personally have had several experiences here in terms of data coming in to us and then ‘kaput’ because of the old technology,” said Michael Wilson, senior hydrologist with Jamaica’s Water Resources Authority. “So, we had to come out here and improve the recording capabilities.”  

In Jamaica, floods have taken a great economic and human toll. According to national estimates, hurricanes, floods and droughts have cost Jamaica an average of two percent of GDP per year since 2001. By 2025, forecasts say they could sap as much as 56 percent of GDP. The country’s core industries—tourism, agriculture, and fisheries—are especially vulnerable to climate-related natural disasters. 

Communities like Rocky Point at the southernmost tip of Jamaica are benefiting from improved early warning of impending weather, as well as new CIF-supported drainage systems that are better protecting the small town against storm surges, floods, and other weather-related disruptions. 

“Previously, there was talk about relocating the people. Whenever it rained and the place got flooded, everybody would say, ‘Oh, I’m moving out!’ says Mayor Winston Maragh. “But now, we don’t have to think about relocating. We’re just thinking about what can be done to face the challenges and how we can solve the problems.”

Alongside weather stations and other equipment, public awareness-raising is critical to ensuring a safer future for all Jamaicans. CIF has partnered with the World Bank to support the government of Jamaica in elevating national climate consciousness and creating a space for all Jamaicans to be changemakers and support resilience in the country. The “Smart and steady, get climate ready!” campaign has garnered public attention through partnerships with media, arts, and cultural organizations.

UnaMay Gordon is Jamaica’s Principal Director for Climate Change and is overseeing the campaign. “Part of the media campaign is the community event or the school event,” she said. “We bring climate change information. We have an encounter with the children at all levels or we go into the campaign with a drama event, just acting out what it is, the difference between vulnerability and the resilience building effort. That is going. Using the culture of the people to provide the information as a big part of this campaign. And these are taking place right across the length and width of Jamaica.”


Reliable real-time weather reports

Improved institutional capacity to respond to floods and natural disasters

Reduced damage to infrastructure during floods

Decreased casualties

New automatic weather stations

BOG WALK Jamaica

  • 1,256,211

  • 48

    % of beneficiaries are women
  • 150

    + people trained in operating and recording data
  • 95

    % equipment installed and operational
  • 35

    new automatic weather stations added
  • 10

    implementing agencies for the project
  • 134

    % of targets installed for Meterological Services of Jamaica

“This is big!”

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