Timeline: Major milestones of the Meteorological Service of Canada
The Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC) has a history dating back over 150 years to 1871. Follow this timeline to learn about some of the major moments and the many technological advances over time. The MSC continues to evolve and advance its technology to bring quality weather forecasting services and information to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
May 1, 1871 – Founding of the new weather forecasting service, the Meteorological Service of Canada, under the Department of Marine and Fisheries.
September 4, 1876 – The first Canadian prepared storm warnings to serve the Great Lakes and Atlantic Coast shipping activities were issued. A year later, the first Canadian general weather forecast (called Probs) was produced.
December 3, 1878 – Forecasts were first made for the Maritime Provinces and transmitted to 20 locations in those provinces.
1908 – The Water Survey of Canada, was first established when Canada recognized the need to determine the extent of the nation’s vast fresh water resources. Today, historical records of river flow and water levels on lakes and rivers include over 8,000 sites.
1920s – The invention of wireless radio revolutionizes meteorology. Information can be gathered from hundreds of remote weather stations across the country and transmitted to isolated logging camps, island communities, the Arctic and even ships at sea.
1937 – The weather service establishes a forecast office in Newfoundland and a flight centre in Montreal to assist with the first commercial trans-Atlantic air service.
March 1940 – At the peak of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan more than 300 meteorologists were hired and trained to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and Royal Air Force (RAF) at 68 different stations in Canada.
1941 – The first operational upper air station in Canada was opened in Gander, Newfoundland followed by an additional 25 stations over a six (6) year period. With the end of World War II, interest began to grow in the establishment of a network of joint Arctic stations between the United States and Canada, and by 1950 an additional five (5) stations had been established as part of the Joint Arctic Weather Station ‘JAWS’ project.
June 11, 1971 – Legislation passed the House of Commons came into force on this day bringing the weather service into the newly created Canada Department of the Environment.
1972 – The Canadian Ice Service joined Environment Canada providing clients and the Canadian public with direct access to ice and iceberg information including observations and forecasts.
1973 – The Canadian Meteorological Centre (CMC) is established in Dorval, Québec, with Dr. André Robert as its first director. He is instrumental in bringing together Canadian expertize in weather science research, modelling, and computer science and technology under one roof.
April 1, 1976 – First weatheradio receiver was set up on Saltspring Island, BC. Weatheradio network transmits continuous recorded messages of weather watches and warnings, public and marine forecasts and current weather forecasts. Today the VHF radio transmitter network includes approximately 240 sites with access to 95% of Canadians.
1978 – Canadian Climate Centre becomes the first service in the world with all functions of climatology, i.e., program and planning, data acquisition and quality control, applications and services, monitoring and prediction, and research under one organization.
April 28, 1986 – The Canadian Meteorological Centre successfully ran an early version of its dispersion model following the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the USSR, a feat that few other similar centres managed on short notice at the time. The Centre monitored the plume and effluent for more than six weeks during the emergency period and advised federal government departments such as Health and Welfare Canada and international government bodies such as the World Meteorological Organization.
1988 – Weather service staff form the organizing secretariat for the landmark World Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in Toronto bringing together scientists, heads of state and policy makers from the around the world to discuss the growing problem of climate change.
1988 Calgary Winter Olympics – Weather service forecasters, technicians and scientists provided specialized forecasts in support of the various venues using some newly developed forecasting tools.
May 27, 1992 – Canada becomes the first country to issue a daily nation-wide ultraviolet (UV) index to warn Canadians about the dangers of over exposure to the sun. Several other countries, including Australia, Germany, Great Britain and the United States, started their own programs, closely modelled on the Canadian UV index.
November 1994 – Environment Canada’s Green Lane (later weatheroffice website is introduced in 2001) gives anyone in the world point and click access to the latest weather readings from across Canada: current forecasts, extended outlooks to seven days, ultraviolet indices, the air quality health risk and advisories. Today the average number of visits is 1.6 million per day and remains the government’s most popular website.
November 1996 – MSC begins contractual obligations with NAV CANADA to continue the provision of aeronautical weather services as it previously supplied to Transport Canada. The Meteorological Service of Canada has been providing weather services to the aeronautical sector since the 1930s.
April 21, 1997 – establishment of the National Radar Project – the largest expansion and upgrade of the entire radar network. The Network was further upgraded in 2004 with Doppler equipment increasing radar coverage for much of Southern Canada and reaching over 98% of the Canadian population. In 2017, the Radar Renewal Project was initiated to upgrade all Doppler radars with new S-Band dual-polarized equipment providing longer range coverage and better precipitation type detection.
1997 – The first Canadian lightning station went into service at Dauphin, MB, as part of the 187-station North American Lightning Detection Network. The Canadian portion of the network includes 81 stations to detect lightning strikes and transmit the information to weather centres and clients in real-time.
2004 – A major organizational transformation of the MSC was underway. A major change in the Service was the consolidation of public, marine and severe weather forecasting operations from 14 centres across the country to seven Storm Prediction Centres located in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montréal, Halifax and Gander.
2005 – Environment Canada and Health Canada in collaboration with the provinces and key health and environment stakeholders established the world’s first National Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), enabling Canadians to learn the health risks associated with the current air pollutants and wildfire smoke and to provide protective health advice to reduce that risk.
2006 – The Space Based Monitoring Network was established to lead and coordinate certain aspects of space-based earth observation (SBEO) within the MSC and Environment Canada. A key outcome is both the geostationary (GOES) and polar-orbiting (POES) satellite reception networks provide near real-time meteorological satellite data to the MSC’s operational forecasting and environmental monitoring programs.
2010 – Environment Canada provides specialized weather services for the Vancouver Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games. This includes introduction of new technologies like Now-casting, providing hourly weather updates for specific sporting locations.
2012 –The National Alert Aggregation Dissemination Systemis introduced providing easy access to distributors like radio, television and web so that they can broadcast the alert messages such as severe weather warnings. Continued advances led to the launch of National Wireless Public Alerting System (WPAS) on April 6, 2018, which includes geo-referenced tornado warnings.
2015 – Toronto Pan American and Parapan American Games – Additional observation sites and enhanced weather technology are installed specifically for the Games. This helps Ontario Storm Prediction Centre provide specialized forecast support and weather-briefing services at the central PanAm/Parapan facility as well as support scientists conduct research into the role lake breezes play in thunderstorm formation during the Games.
November 2, 2017 – A new High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure goes online and is used by ECCC to provide Canadians with one of the most advanced weather services in the world. This upgrade represented a big leap in HPC capacity, which coupled with ECCC’s scientific innovation, has led to continual improvement of MSC’s weather warnings and forecasts.
November 2017 – MSC took a significant step forward in environmental prediction by introducing the world's first operational coupled atmosphere-ice-ocean forecast model. This model led to improvement in medium-range model forecast performance, most notably in the western North Pacific region. Scientific innovations such as this allow Canadians to have a longer lead-time to get reliable and accurate decision-making information ahead of significant weather systems.
February 14, 2019 – Canada’s weather service launches WeatherCAN – its first weather app for iPhone and Android devices, providing direct access to weather forecasts and warnings, including a new high-resolution radar option. The free app is in both English and French and can track 10,000 Canadian locations.
May 2020 – Addition of provincial and territorial social media accounts to tweet forecast products and services. Social media is the newest platform through which MSC can engage local audiences and crowd source relevant weather information used for prediction services.
October 2020 – The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) accepted all five of MSC’s nominated weather stations as Centennial Observing Stations. Centennial stations are long standing meteorological observing stations with continuous periods of records spanning back more than a century. This recognition identifies Canada's commitment to long-term climate observations.
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