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Archived - Investment of $107.5 million for modernizing Environment Canada's weather monitoring networks

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Producing weather forecasts and warnings for a geographical area the size of Canada, with its wide range of climate conditions, requires several different monitoring networks from hundreds of sites located across the country.

The weather, water and climate data used by Environment Canada’s (EC) weather services to produce warnings and forecasts come from a set of integrated networks that include:

  • land-based and marine surface weather and climate stations
  • weather radars
  • upper air stations (balloon-borne instruments called radiosondes)
  • the Canadian Lightning Detection Network
  • satellite ground receiving stations (located across the country and receiving Canadian and international satellite data)

These core monitoring networks form the backbone of EC’s forecasts and weather warnings. Modernizing these highly automated, complex and integrated infrastructure will ensure Canadians can rely on accurate weather forecasts based on the most modern technology available.

Modernizing surface weather, climate and marine network and weather radar network

Surface weather, climate and marine network

The network of land-based surface weather, climate and marine observing sites (buoys) measures weather elements including temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and wind direction, and precipitation occurrence and amounts. These weather elements must be observed in real time to provide the most timely and accurate forecasts and warnings to Canadians, weather sensitive industries such as agriculture and transportation, and contribute to safe transportation for marine and aviation sectors.

This is why improved access to weather and climate data through new technology is critical. The modernization and expansion of this network includes:

  • upgrade 150 existing land-based weather and climate monitoring stations
  • upgrade 125 existing marine monitoring stations
  • add 40 land-based weather and climate monitoring stations to fill existing observational gaps and improve coverage, particularly in growing population centres

Weather radar network

Critical weather conditions such as tornadoes, damaging winds, heavy precipitation, freezing precipitation, and hail must be observed in real time to provide the most timely and accurate forecasts and warnings to Canadians.

The radar modernization project aims to renew and ensure the long-term sustainability of EC’s radar network by replacing aging radar and adding Dual Polarization Technology. In addition to better early warning of severe weather developments, dual polarization technology offers better representation of the types of precipitation including snow, hail, rain and freezing rain.

Modernizing the upper air monitoring network

A network of 31 upper air stations collect upper air data from radiosonde devices launched into the atmosphere twice daily by a weather balloon. 

The devices are small box-like instruments that collect data on:

  • barometric pressure
  • temperature
  • humidity
  • wind speed and direction
  • ozone levels

This information is used for weather and climate forecasting and for upper wind information that is necessary for safe and efficient navigation by the aviation industry.

The new funding will allow Environment Canada to design a new upper air network that includes newer technologies such as ground-based remote sensing and space-based techniques to complement existing technology.

Modernizing Canadian Lightning Detection Network

The Canadian Lightning Detection Network is fully integrated with the United States National Lightning Detection Network, forming the largest combined lightning detection network in the world, with 189 sensors (84 in Canada and 105 in the United States). The Canadian Lightning Detection Network runs 24 hours a day and detects, precisely locates, and reports cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in real time.

Approximately 10 people die in Canada each year due to lightning strikes and more than hundred are injured. Modernizing the Canadian Lightning Detection Network will provide Canadian and businesses with real-time local lightning information so they can make informed decisions to protect their life and property.   

Benefits to Canadians

With this investment, Canadians will have improved access to accurate and reliable weather and climate data to help them make more informed decisions to reduce risks to their personal safety.

Decision-makers will have access to more accurate data to incorporate into building codes, more energy efficient designs, emergency preparedness plans, water management plans, measures to protect assets, and other engineering-related requirements where weather and water information is essential.

Economic sectors such as agriculture, tourism, energy production, natural resource development and transportation will have the information they need to ensure safer, and more efficient and competitive operations, thereby increasing their economic performance.

These investments are part of the Meteorological Service of Canada’s long term plan to address critical infrastructure, scientific advancements, life-cycle management and important services delivered to all Canadians.

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