Canadian Hurricane Centre: Helping Residents Stay Safe Since 1987

Canada is known for many things, but consistent weather is not one of them. A clear day can quickly turn into pounding rain and a light snowfall can become a roaring whiteout. Helping Canadians plan for and navigate these conditions has been the Meteorological Service of Canada’s priority since 1871, with the goal of helping Canadians make informed decisions about their health, safety and economic prosperity.

When it comes to Canadian weather, few phenomena make as significant an impact as hurricanes. These storms are capable of extreme destruction and damage, which is why the Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC) has focussed on predicting them to protect Canadians and their interests since 1987.

 CHC meteorologist Roberta McArthur sits at a desk and uses multiple computer screens to track Hurricane Dorian.
CHC meteorologist Roberta McArthur tracks Hurricane Dorian in 2019.

Understanding “Canadian-style” cyclones

Located within the Meteorological Service of Canada’s Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, CHC meteorologists have made significant discoveries about the tropical cyclones we get in Canada. “Canadian-style” tropical cyclones change from tropical to post-tropical (or extratropical) as they move northward, away from the tropics and toward Canada. Over the years, CHC meteorologists have done many things to understand these storms, including flying into the storms to collect data and model them in 3D.

Upon analyzing the data, CHC meteorologists have found that tropical cyclones in Canadian latitudes behave differently than they do farther south. For example, unlike tropical cyclones, post-tropical or transitioning cyclones are cooler on one side and warmer on the other. 

CHC meteorologist Dr. Chris Fogarty sits inside an aircraft. Sitting back-to-back behind him is retired meteorologist Jim Abraham.
In 2003, CHC meteorologists Dr. Chris Fogarty and Jim Abraham (now retired), flew into Tropical Storm Isabel. This was one of the first flights ever into an inland tropical cyclone.

These storms also expand in size as they go through extratropical transition leading to a larger area of impact with more rain to the left of the storm track and stronger winds to the right. These sorts of discoveries have helped CHC meteorologists better predict the impacts of hurricanes in Canada and give more accurate warnings and watches for different areas.

This ongoing research has led to the CHC being known internationally as a leading expert in forecasting post-tropical or transitioning cyclones. That said, CHC meteorologists are always working to learn more and develop a better understanding so they can continue improving hurricane prediction in Canada. A meteorologist’s work is never done.

Predicting ocean wave impacts

In 2000, CHC meteorologist Al MacAfee developed the storm resonant waves (trapped-fetch) model, which is a math formula to forecast ocean waves during hurricanes. The model shows that when part of a storm moves over the ocean at the same speed as the waves beneath it, those waves can grow very large very quickly. As a result, CHC meteorologists can warn areas at risk for extremely large waves. This is especially relevant to the marine community.

Accessing a global network of talent

Another priority for the CHC has been international collaboration. This takes many forms, from training programs to information sharing to working together in real-time on the predicted track of a storm. The CHC has strong partnerships with a global network of meteorologists, which means that the CHC can access an international pool of knowledge and talent for the benefit of Canadians.

Global collaboration happens on a more formal level, too. The CHC is part of the World Meteorological Organization’s (WMO) international community of nations focused on tropical cyclones, participating in joint operational planning, training and scientific research on a global scale.

Enhanced partnerships

Protecting life and property is a shared goal of both the CHC and the emergency management community. As a result, partnerships between the CHC and emergency management agencies at all levels of government have been greatly enhanced especially over last 20 years. The CHC collaborates closely with these agencies to prepare for the start of each hurricane season, communicates hurricane risk throughout the season and provides vital information in the event of an approaching storm.

We’ve got you covered

As Canada’s authoritative source for hurricane information, the CHC is proud to serve Canadians around the clock in times of crisis. When a hurricane threatens Canada, we will be there, monitoring and predicting hazards, so that Canadians can make the most informed decisions to protect themselves and their property.

Learn more about the forecast for the 2021 Hurricane Season.

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