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Webinar: Flooding and Climate Change in Jamaica, risk to Vulnerable Communities.


Join CDKN for a webinar on Aug 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM COT.

Register now! 

Flooding from extreme rainfall events is one of the major natural hazards affecting Jamaica and other small island states in the Caribbean. Jamaica has already experienced several major floods and climate-related hazards in the last decade; the social and economic cost of which has been estimated at US$18.6 billion. Clearly, increased in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events associated with climate change are a major risk to national infrastructure, development progress and the welfare of vulnerable communities.

Despite this very real threat, current flood maps in Jamaica are out of date, education on flood safety is poor and adaptive capacity in flood-prone communities is low. A new project, implemented by the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, is attempting to tackle these deficiencies.

In this webinar, hosted by CDKN, Dr. Arpita Mandal of UWI will present the results from this research project which focuses on the vulnerable communities along the the Yallahs river, as well as communities around the Orange River watershed in Negril. The project aims to create improved flood-preparedness models for these two watersheds, using information from past extreme rainfall events to create maps to plan for future flood risk. The ultimate goal was to model extreme events and create five, ten and twenty-five-year flood risk maps for both present and future climate projections. In the webinar Dr Mandal will also discuss about the importance of working with communities and adapt the results of models to their daily lives and the challenges that they are facing as a result of climate change. These map-based decision-making tool are designed to assist policy-makers in creating or revising effective flood mitigation measures, evacuation strategies and national disaster risk management plans. This will also help determine the adaptation measures that can be adopted by communities to respond to increasing flood risk, and protect those most vulnerable.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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The Flooding Project in Jamaica was funded by CDKN and managed by CARIBSAVE. It was a collaborative research between Arpita Mandal of Dept of Geography and Geology, UWI Mona, Dr Matthew Wilson of Dept of Geograny, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, Climate Studies Group, UWI MONA Jamaica, David Smith of Institute of Sustainable Development, UWI MONA, Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust and Dr Arpita Nandi of East Tennessee State University, USA.

The ‘WHAT?’ ‘WHY?’ and ‘HOW?’ of Climate Change Resilient Building

Build Better Jamaica’s Somer Spencer tackles climate change related risks and the need to develop strategies and policies to enable building resilience in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean in an exclusive guest post at Caribbean Climate, the region’s premier climate change focused blog.

‘“Never seen flooding like this” Storm particularly harsh on St. Elizabeth, Manchester’ 
~Jamaica Observer, Oct. 3, 2010
‘Hurricane Sandy moving across Jamaica with heavy rain, high winds’ 
~Caribbean 360, Oct. 24 2012
‘Flooding in St. Mary’ 
~The Gleaner, Nov. 10, 2012
Prepare for drought! ODPEM Warns Citizens to Get Ready For Dry Season’ 
~The Gleaner, Jan. 7, 2013
Cabinet approves $30m to Fight Drought – Robertson Says Allocation Insufficient for West St. Thomas’ 
~The Gleaner, Jan. 23, 2013

These are just a few headlines that have been in Jamaica’s media recently. Over the past years, the island of Jamaica has faced a hurricane, flooding and drought conditions. These are only a few of the climatic issues the island faces and with climate change, it is predicted to intensify. Climate Change is no longer something that is expected to happen, it is already here!


Before we can define a climate change resilient building, we need to define the term resilience. Resilience speaks to ‘the capacity for a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure’[1]. When applied to buildings, a climate change resilient building may be defined as a structure, whether permanent or temporary, that is enclosed with exterior walls and a roof constructed on a plot of land that has the capacity to absorb disturbances, in particular climate change related impacts, and still retain its basic function and structure. Climate Change Resilient Building encompasses the actual structure as well as the siting of the building and its materiality.


Caribbean Terrace in Jamaica is a perfect example (but not the only one) of why we need resilient buildings. On numerous occasions, this seaside community has been affected by storm surge, in some cases displacing its residents. During the reporting period 1980 to 2010, there were 29 natural disasters recorded that had affected approximately 1,895,317 persons and causing a death toll of 226. Yearly, that is approximately 61,139 persons are affected, with 7 persons dying from natural disasters alone.[2]

Building exteriors are similar to the human skin, in that it protects its occupants from climatic conditions. Without it, we are all vulnerable. With the predicted escalations in climate change related impacts, attention needs to be focused on increasing the resilience of our building stock to prevent loss of life and property.


Codes. Building codes play an important role in raising the minimum standard of the building stock, by establishing the minimum requirements for: the siting /location of the building, the building envelope, the building material, systems and sustainable practices.

Sustainable practices. As Alex Wilson from Building Green puts it: ‘It turns out that many of the strategies needed to achieve resilience–such as really well-insulated homes that will keep their occupants safe if the power goes out or interruptions in heating fuel occur–are exactly the same strategies we have been promoting for years in the green building movement. The solutions are largely the same, but the motivation is one of life-safety, rather than simply doing the right thing. We need to practice green building, because it will keep us safe–a powerful motivation–and this may be the way to finally achieve widespread adoption of such measures.’ Sustainability needs to be forefront in everyone’s mind. It needs to become a way of building rather than an option.

Enforcement. All the ideas and strategies in the world will make little difference without governance and enforcement.

Consolidation of resources. Currently, there are many different organizations and resources available. Some are more accessible than others. Creating a collaborative single resource that is easily accessible will help minimize confusion, duplication and prevent the use of different resources for validation.


  • As a region, we need to have enforceable building codes …
  • As a region, we need think sustainably …
  • As a region, we need to recognize and improve the weaknesses in our system …
  • As a region, we need to work together…

‘Build Better Jamaica’ is a public awareness campaign for an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) funded project with the Institute for Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies titled: Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings. This project analyses the climate change related risks and is charged with developing strategies and policies to increase resilience in the building stock in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. The results of the research are intended to aid in improving building practices and provide input for legislative reforms for Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

Somer Spencer R.A.(FL), LEED® AP BD+C, NCARB is part of the  team of consultants lead by  MODE Ltd, who are undertaking a review of Building Codes, as one of the focus areas of the Developing Design Concepts for Climate Change Resilient Buildings project.

[1] (Applegath 2012)
[2] (Jamaica – Disaster Statistics n.d.)

CERMES Field Laboratory Underway in Belize

CERMES Students with 5Cs staff in Belmopan

CERMES Students with 5Cs staff in Belmopan

A group of students, faculty and support staff from the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES), which is located at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus in Barbados, arrived in Belize yesterday (April 7 through to April 16) for an extensive field laboratory.

This marks the ninth year that the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre is funding a contingent of CERMES students and faculty to visit Belize, one of the region’s most diverse ecological settings, to put into action the range of tools they are learning, and observe the relationships between scientific theory and the measurement of critical variables and parameters.

(L-R) John Moody (5Cs), Neetha Selliah (CERMES), Dr. Adrian Cashman (CERMES), Renata Goodridge (CERMES), Dr. Nurse (5Cs and CERMES), and Earl Green (5Cs)

(L-R) John Moody (5Cs), Neetha Selliah (CERMES), Dr. Adrian Cashman (CERMES), Renata Goodridge (CERMES), Dr. Nurse (5Cs and CERMES), and Earl Green (5Cs)

The 13 students who hail from across the region were drawn from graduate studies in both climate change and water resources management. Dr. Leonard Nurse, Chairman of the Centre’s Board of Directors and coordinator of the climate change graduate programme, says the students will visit three sites in mixed groups and three according to their area of specialization. Dr. Nurse notes that the inter-disciplinary cohorts mirror the need for and will enable strong team ethic, cross-disciplinary competence and investigative skills.

His colleague Dr. Adrian Cashman, who coordinates the water resources management graduate programme, says the field laboratory is crucial. He notes that it has evolved over the years from being largely observational to an intensive field work exercise that is exposing the students to things rarely taught in the classroom, including critical soft skills such as communication and planning, while enabling a better appreciation for the myriad of possible sources of error and difficulties associated with field work. He says assignments based on the trip will account for a quarter of their respective course grades, adding that in the medium to long-term, there should be a separate field laboratory that spans a longer period and constituting an independent course.

Credit: CGIAR

Credit: CGIAR

Dr. Nurse agrees, noting that the programme’s value is lasting. He says since its inception, CERMES students have compiled nearly a decade of beach profile data showing the rapid rate of erosion at Monkey River, a site they will visit again. He says the students are also slated to investigate the carbon sequestration capacity of forest in the Ya’axche Golden Stream Reserve and visit the Blue Creek rice field site to examine the potential for greenhouse emissions from rice paddy fields. Dr. Cashman added that the water resources group will work on ground water issues in Orange Walk and Corozal to locate wells, with the intention of using GPS to measure the depth to water table. The students will then begin to build ground water maps, which will prove especially useful for planning purposes.

Bookmark this page for daily updates of activities carried out by the CERMES contingent. What to expect? Pictures, short videos and summaries of their beach and offshore profiling in the Monkey River Village area, carbon sequestration measurements in the Ya’axche Golden Stream Reserve, flow gauging and water quality sampling in upper Bladen River, visits to rice fields in Blue Creek and Altun Ha Maya and much more.

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Students engaging in water quality sampling

Students engaging in water quality sampling



Members of the CERMES Team

Members of the CERMES Team



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