January 16, 2015 9:56 pm
Updated: January 17, 2015 1:00 pm

Environment Canada funding may help improve weather coverage

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Watch above: A major federal funding announcement Thursday for the country’s national weather service may help improve how much time you have time to prepare. Global News meteorologist Peter Quinlan reports.

A major federal funding announcement Thursday for the country’s national weather service may help improve how much time you have to prepare for poor weather.

Canada’s environment minister Leona Aglukkaq announced $134 million to improve the quality of forecasts and warnings.

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“This would help Environment Canada better predict major events such as what we saw here in Calgary in 2013,” Aglukkaq said at a news conference.

Some of the cash will allow for significant upgrades to monitoring networks and warning and forecast systems that will provide more lead time for people to better prepare themselves for a weather event.

This past summer a Global News exclusive uncovered that there are discrepancies with how Environment Canada covers weather events across the country.

When weather takes a turn for the worse, warnings from Environment Canada are what prepares people to face dangerous conditions.

That wasn’t the case this past summer when a funnel cloud loomed over Moose Jaw, Sask.

The only place people could find information was on social media.

The situation was handled much differently 24 hours later when a funnel cloud was spotted near Cochrane, Alta. Information on the incident was available the same day.

READ MORE: Environment Canada admits to differing standards of weather coverage

In an exclusive interview with Global News, an Environment Canada spokesperson admitted that not all parts of the country receive equal coverage of weather events.

Environment Canada’s western region manager of client services, Dennis Dudley stated “some regions manage these kind of things different than others – for example, Ontario – they have standard procedures where they essentially provide a summary of events almost on a daily basis.”

“Some regions manage these kind of things different than others – for example, Ontario – they have standard procedures where they essentially provide a summary of events almost on a daily basis.”

Location isn’t the only factor affecting how much weather information is provided to the public.

Dudley said “the frequency of which the prairies might put out an event might depend on who’s on shift, how much information they have, how much time they have, whether it’s a weekend or not, who’s around, and the experience of the people.”

Just over a week later, with no advanced warning, an Outlook area farmer lost his farm and almost his life to one of the strongest tornadoes Saskatchewan has seen in years.

“I got pinned when the walls fell down on top of me,” said farmer Ray Derdall, who recounted from his near-death experience.

Six tornadoes touched down in Saskatchewan that day.

When asked why no tornado watches or warnings were issued until the first tornado was headed toward the farm, Environment Canada’s Prediction and Services Operations West Director Brian Wiens said “In this particular case, the decision was that the likelihood of a tornado was not high enough to issue the watch in advance.”

Response to the story was swift with dozens of viewers writing to say that something needs to change. Now those changes are closer than ever.

The agency plans to hire five new warning preparedness meteorologists, update deteriorating equipment and add 40 new weather stations across the country at locations that will be determined later this year.

Modernizing aging weather radar stations that monitor for tornadoes, hail and heavy rain storms will be part of the upgrade.

Environment Canada’s monitoring infrastructure includes 31 weather radars, 84 lightning detection sensors, 125 fixed buoys and automatic marine stations installed on ships, 31 stations for launching balloon-borne observations of the upper atmosphere, satellite data and about 1,200 surface weather and climate stations.

The agency issues on average of 15,000 severe weather warnings each year.

Environment Canada’s Monitoring and Data Service Director General Genevieve Bechard hopes the update will help improve local data available for forecasting that will also increase the lead time they are able to give the public to allow for more time to prepare for adverse weather.

“The investment was needed because the last major investment that we got was 15 years ago,” Bechard said.

Although the full effects of the funding won’t be felt until 2023, Environment Canada says you may start noticing changes over the next few years.

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