Summer weather watching tips

As we all know, summer severe weather can sneak up unexpectedly. Despite this, Environment Canada’s forecasters know that many times there are clues that will help us know what is coming.

For example, days that are forecast to have extremely high temperatures and high humidity can be days when thunderstorms will develop. On these types of days it can be tough not just for you, but for the forecaster. These are days when the forecaster knows the airmass can explode into clusters of small to medium thunderstorm cells which develop individually, but at times merge into larger storms.

But it is where these thunderstorm cells will pop up that is the big question. Forecasters like to use the following analogy to describe the situation: Imagine putting a pot of water on the stove and turning the burner to high. We know that eventually the pot will begin to bubble, but determining where the first bubble will occur in the pot is almost impossible.

Forecasters have the benefit of their knowledge of local effects and mesoscale meteorology to narrow the search, and their understanding of these inputs is constantly being refined. Watches for these types of storms often have shorter lead times than storms associated with larger scale patterns.

In other summer severe weather situations, the clues are much clearer. These might be days where we know that severe weather outbreaks have occurred nearby the day before. These outbreaks are quite often associated with low pressure systems that move across our region. In some cases, we may see lengthy outbreaks of thunderstorms ahead, along and behind a warm front. This is often followed in many cases by a cold front which can produce additional thunderstorms.

These systems are usually easier to track using satellite, radar, and weather spotters. These are days when it is important to pay attention to forecasts, special statements, watches and warnings. Also, on days like these, watches are usually issued with a greater lead time, giving most people ample time to prepare for what is coming.

For those of you looking to get more involved in summer severe weather and its clues, check out The Severe Weather Watcher Handbook. It will give you information about all of the things mentioned above and more, so that if you like, you can help be one of the public eyes and ears of Environment Canada’s Meteorological Service during severe weather events. If you are not interested in being a spotter, this guide is still a great severe weather resource.

Lastly, always remember that in your attempts to spot severe weather, never put yourself in danger. Weather spotting is and should always be done from a safe distance.

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