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'Grandfather of the Met' bids adieu

Published:Thursday | September 29, 2016 | 12:00 AMPetre Williams-Raynor

JEFFREY SPOONER has long been a man on a mission, but after 40 years of stamping his mark on the Met Service while helping to advance Jamaica's efforts toward climate security, it's time to put his feet up.

His mission boots are officially off and closeted.

Only last Friday, team members and friends gave the self-styled 'Grandfather of the Met Service' a warm send-off following his retirement as director of the entity earlier this year.

In taking stock of the years, Spooner, now in his late fifties, is happy with a number of things.

"I am really pleased with the progress of the computerisation, and of course, the model output products and so on, at the Met Service. I am also extremely proud of the climate services tools and products being delivered ... We have set the trend in the region ..." he told The Gleaner.

On his service in the climate change arena, he is content.

"I am happy that I was able to serve as focal point for climate change, and, at times, chief negotiator for climate change. I am happy I was able to serve my region on the Adaptation Fund Board (as the Group of Latin America and the Caribbean representative) as well as co-chair for the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) process," Spooner said.

"I have co-chaired for some of the contact groups and served the COP9 (ninth Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC) Bureau as rapporteur," he noted of the work, which involved ensuring that all the activities of the Bureau were conducted and reports accurate and published.




Spooner joined the Met Office as a meteorological assistant in 1976. It was two years after his mother had died, having been hit by lightning.

"One of my main reasons for joining the Meteorological Service was the fact that my mom was killed by lightning ... I wanted to find out as much as I could about lightning; its cause and effects," he told this journalist seven years ago.

His formal training in meteorology followed thereafter at the Caribbean Meteorological Institute (now the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology) in Barbados from where he graduated with a Class 4 Meteorological Assistant Certificate.

He subsequently pursued studies as a lab technician in 1980 at the College of Agriculture, Science and Technology (now the University of Technology) before being granted a scholarship to undertake the specialised course in Weather Radar Observation at the Caribbean Meteorological Institute.

In 1983, he graduated with a certificate as a weather radar observer and later worked in the Radar Section of the Met Service until 1986.

He was granted a scholarship to study forecasting that year and graduated a year later with his diploma.

The next four years saw him working at the National Meteorological Centre (NMC) as a forecaster, before earning another scholarship.

On that occasion, it was to read for his degree in meteorology at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill.

He graduated with honours in 1994 and assumed the role of section head at the NMC until 1996 when he was transferred to the head office to take charge of the Climate Branch - having acted as head of the Weather Branch in his last post.




Spooner has also been on attachment to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Centre (Miami), where he did training in hurricane forecasting; and at NOAA Tropical Prediction Centre (Washington), where he obtained training in short- to medium-range forecasting.

"I have worked in all the sections of the Meteorological Service with the exception of one the Upper Air Station," he has said, alluding to the reason for his moniker, 'The grandfather of Met'.

Meanwhile, the move to the Climate Branch is what got him on the road to helping to advance Jamaica's climate interests.

He was the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Focal Point for Jamaica and Jamaica's Climate Change Focal Point from 2001 to 2004, when he was offered a fellowship to the University of Reading.

Two years later - with his master's in Applied Meteorology - he returned and served as one of Jamaica's climate change negotiators until December last year when the historic Paris Agreement was reached.

While he has closeted his mission boots however, he hasn't entirely closed the closet doors.

"I am still committed to the work toward the continued development and progress of Jamaica in meteorology and climate-change activities. I would be willing and available to serve (if the opportunity arises)," Spooner said.