A new weather radar tower on BC’s Sunshine Coast will help Environment and Climate Change Canada scan 330 kilometers of skies with the intention of providing better forecasting models and alerts if severe weather is detected.
Meteorologist Terri Lang says the tower is a welcome addition to the 900 weather stations, and 33 towers across Canada, but this facility’s height and location was chosen to provide better forecasting and fill in gaps.
“The tower will extend past Vancouver Island, which means when we go out that far we can see weather systems coming off the Pacific and we need that because it is very data sparse,” Lang says.
The tower’s upgraded systems will allow meteorologists to have a more enhanced look at wind patterns, scanning ranges which, according to Lang, were very sparse and hard to predict because of their limited coverage area.
The current range to predict wind patterns has doubled from 120 kilometers to 240 kilometers, and scan rates have improved from 10 minutes to six minutes.
Lang says they will also add technology referred to as dual polarization which will allow Environment Canada to predict exactly what is falling from the sky.
“There are now beams that go out horizontally and vertically,” she says. “It will help us see the particles a little bit better to determine the difference between a raindrop, snowflake, or a hailstone.”
According to Environment Canada’s website, threatening weather in Canada develops quickly and has the potential of affecting life and property. It says Canada’s Pacific coast experiences relatively mild weather while Prairie provinces are more prone to extreme cold and warm summers.
Lang says it may not improve the response rate for Environment Canada when it comes to severe weather, but it will allow them to predict what is coming and how residents should deal with it.
“It will help our forecasters see better and provide more information, leading to better decisions,” she says. “It will help to determine when warnings should be issued, if they need to be issued.”
Environment Canada hopes the new radar technology will help forecast weather patterns across the county.
The tower at Halfmoon Bay is 34.4 meters tall while most weather towers in Canada are 16 meters.
The new radar will cover areas past Vancouver Island, beyond the Strait of Georgia, into the interior and supplement the Aldergrove tower.