As of Monday, July 26, the weather observation center in Gustavia, now called Espace Météo Caraïbes, has been open to the public three afternoons per week.
Located near vestiges of the Swedish era (remains of Fort Gustav, a bakery and a cistern) overlooking the port of Gustavia, the center has been operated by Météo France since 1952. The only relay station between Guadeloupe and Puerto Rico, Espace Météo Caraïbes in Gustavia is as important as the stations of Raizet or Lyon in France. This center has always been equipped for weather forecasting and observation. Météo France put Lucien Finaud in charge of renovating of the center. He arrived in Saint-Barth on April 1, 1999, and worked hard to complete his mission, before retiring in early July. René Fury, a Météo France engineer, who prior to Saint-Barth was stationed in at the weather site in Besançon, has replaced him.
The station was renovated as a showcase for the state-of-the-art technologies developed recently by Météo France. Everyone who remembers the old building will be pleasantly surprised by the modernity of the new installation. The ground floor has been transformed into a 750 square foot public information center. Texts in French and English, accompanied with photos of the island, explain the origins and dangers of hurricanes, the greenhouse effect, the formation of swells, waves, storm surge, the ozone layer… subjects of importance both today and for the future. Two screens allow the projection of films including one about the origins of hurricanes, a short film made by the technicians Météo France about and for Saint-Barth.
Visitors can learn about weather forecasting through satellite images in real time, presented on a large screen and explained by René Fury, the engineer from Météo France who is now in charge of the station. Computers with interactive software show large weather phenomena that interest younger guests. For professionals, there is “Espace Pro,” designed to work with special clients and their needs: from tracking pollution to hydrology, and other personalized services such as Navimail, a paid service that offers sailors a five-day forecast. On the left of the entrance is a conference room for 20 people that is equipped with a video projector. Surprising images show the participation of Météo France on such projects as the construction of the Stade de France (national French stadium) or the Millau viaduct. On the ceiling, a midnight blue panel with small points of light recreates the celestial canopy of Saint-Barth.
The first floor is reserved for special guests and the staff of Météo France. There is a small kitchen and a sofa bed, permitting someone to live there during a hurricane. The roof terrace was retained, and turned into a deck that offers a superb 360° view of the port, neighboring islands, Public and the Tourmente.
The renovations cost 5 million euros, financed half by European funds, plus 1,500,000 euros from Météo France, 132,000 euros from the Region, and 115,000 euros from the Municipality. The next phase is the creation of a botanical garden surrounding the Espace Météo.