Modernizing Canada’s weather-radar network

On February 28, 2017, The Government of Canada announced the replacement of its weather-radar network. At that time, Canada’s radar network consisted of a mix of older radars including two radars operated in partnership with the Department of National Defence and one owned by McGill University. A contract was awarded to buy and install a total of 33 new radars across the country to replace the old network. This includes the addition of a radar in the Fort McMurray area of Alberta, expanding Canada’s operational radar network. Twenty-seven of the new S-band dual polarization radars have been completed to date, are available online and have been fully integrated into the forecasting process. It is expected that the last of the new radars will be available to the public by early summer 2023.

Canadian Weather-Radar Network
Locations of Canadian weather radar sites 

Map of Canada displaying all the locations of all the existing Canadian weather-radar sites: Victoria, Aldergrove (near Vancouver), Prince George, Silver Star Mountain Aldergrove (near Vancouver), Prince George, Silver Star Mountain (near Vernon), Victoria, Bethune (near Regina), Carvel (near Edmonton), Foxwarren (near Brandon), Jimmy Lake (near Cold Lake), Radisson (near Saskatoon), Schuler (near Medicine Hat), Spirit River (near Grande Prairie), Strathmore (near Calgary), Woodlands (near Winnipeg), Britt (near Sudbury), Dryden, Exeter (near London), Franktown (near Ottawa), King City (near Toronto), Montreal River (near Sault Ste Marie), Northeast Ontario (near Timmins), Superior West (near Thunder Bay), Lac Castor (near Saguenay), Landrienne (near Rouyn-Noranda), McGill (near Montréal), Val d'Irène (near Mont Joli), Villeroy (near Trois-Rivières), Chipman (near Fredericton), Halifax, Holyrood (near St. John's), Marble Mountain, Marion Bridge (near Sydney).

Replacement schedule

The first radar to be replaced was installed in fall 2017 at Radisson SK (near Saskatoon) and the other radars will be replaced at a rate of four to seven per year through March 2023. The replacement schedule for the radars will be posted here as it becomes available.

Several factors are taken into account to determine the radar replacement order and schedule. This includes:

  • current operational stability
  • climate and local severe weather frequency
  • location
  • access to the radar sites

System design and construction plans could also influence the decision-making process. Some radars, such as Mt Sicker (near Victoria BC) will be relocated to improve coverage or for operational reasons.

Current S-band deployment schedule (as of December 1, 2022)
Order Site name (Radar Identifier) Construction timeframe Replacement status Completion date
01 Radisson, SK (CASRA)
Oct 2017 – Feb 2018 Completed Feb 7, 2018
02 Blainville, QC (CASBV) Jun – Sep 2018 Completed Sep 27, 2018
03 Foxwarren, MB (CASFW) Jun – Sep 2018 Completed Sep 27, 2018
04 Smooth Rock Falls (Timmins), ON (CASRF) Aug – Oct 2018 Completed Nov 14, 2018
05 Spirit River, AB (CASSR) Jun 2018 – Mar 2019 Completed Feb 22, 2019
06 Bethune, SK (CASBE) May – Sep 2019 Completed Aug 9, 2019
07 Exeter, ON (CASET) May – Nov 2019 Completed Aug 9, 2019
08 Marion Bridge, NS (CASMB) Jun – Oct 2019 Completed Oct 18, 2019
09 Chipman, NB (CASCM) Jun – Oct 2019 Completed Oct 9, 2019
10 Landrienne, QC (CASLA) Jun – Oct 2019 Completed Oct 31, 2019
11 Montreal River Harbour, ON (CASMR) May – Nov 2019 Completed Nov 29, 2019
12 Strathmore, AB (CASSM) Jul – Nov 2019 Completed Nov 18, 2019
13 Schuler, AB (CASSU) Jun – Aug 2020 Completed
Sep 8, 2020
14 Dryden, ON (CASDR) Jun – Sep 2020 Completed
Sep 3, 2020
15 Holyrood, NL (CASHR) Jun – Oct 2020 Completed Oct 13, 2020
16 Sainte-Francoise (Villeroy), QC (CASSF) May – Nov 2020 Completed Nov 10, 2020
17 Training Radar Egbert, ON (CASTS) Jun – Nov 2020 Completed Nov 20 , 2020**
18 Woodlands, MB (CASWL) Jun – Oct 2020 Completed Oct 19, 2020
19 Val d’Irene, QC (CASVD) Jun – Nov 2020 Completed Nov 2, 2020
20 King, ON (CASKR) Mar – late Jun 2021 Completed
Jun 28, 2021
21 Franktown, ON (CASFT)  May – early Aug 2021 Completed
Aug 3, 2021
22 Gore, NS (CASGO) Late Apr – late Aug 2021 Completed Aug 30, 2021
23 Britt, ON (CASBI) Aug – Nov 2021 Completed
Nov 22, 2021
24
Aldergrove, BC (CASAG) Apr – early Sep 2021 Completed Sep 7, 2021
25 Cold Lake, AB (Jimmy Lake replacement site) (CASCL)
May – Oct 2021
Completed Oct 26, 2021
26 Carvel, AB (CASCV) Late Aug 2021 – Jan 2022 Completed
Jan 26, 2022
27 Marble Mountain, NL (CASMM) Jun 2021 – Oct 2022 Completed Oct 31, 2022
28
Shuniah, ON (Superior West replacement site) (CASSN) May – June 2023 Delayed
Summer 2023*
29 Silver Star, BC (CASSS) Jul – Dec 2022 On Track Dec 12, 2022*
30 Mont Apica, QC  (Lac Castor replacement site) (CASMA) Sep – Dec 2022 On Track Jan 23, 2023*
31 Fort McMurray, AB (new site) (CASFM) Jun – Sep 2022 Completed Sep 26, 2022
32
Prince George, BC (CASPG) Jun – Dec 2022 On Track Dec 19, 2022*
33 Halfmoon Peak, BC (Vancouver Island replacement site) (CASHP) Nov 2022 – May 2023 On Track Summer 2023*

* Expected completion date shown with *.

** Radar is for training and test purposes. Currently not operational/online.

Dual polarization: a leading-edge technology

These state-of-the-art radars will have fully integrated dual-polarization technology, which will enable forecasters to better distinguish between rain, snow, hail, and freezing rain as well as better discern the size, shape, and variety of precipitation particles. This technology will also enable better identification and removal of non-meteorological targets such as birds, bugs, and debris from the data. As a result, they will issue more precise and timely weather watches and warnings for these significant weather events, giving Canadians more lead time to take appropriate actions to protect themselves, their family, and their property from the effects of severe weather.

Extended tornado-detection range

The new radars will also have an extended severe-weather detection range to cover more of Canada, increasing the Doppler range to 240 kilometres per radar from the current 120 kilometres. Doubling the Doppler range will give Canadians greater lead time to protect themselves and their families from tornadoes and other severe weather. Extending Doppler coverage of the weather-radar network will also allow for better overlap of neighbouring radars in case of an outage.

Better serving weather-sensitive industries

Economic sectors sensitive to weather events such as agriculture, natural resources, fisheries, construction, aviation, tourism, transportation, retail, and investors will benefit from higher data quality and consistency for severe-weather events as weather information is an important part of their strategic planning. For example, weather-radar imagery is used to help in safely routing planes around severe weather.

The improved weather-data quality will also allow for more effective use of the information in other areas, such as water management, as radar images are used to understand the effects of precipitation on drainage basins, in particular in support of flood forecasting by provinces.



New weather radars
New weather radars infographic

New weather radars to better forecast severe weather. An increased Doppler range from 120km to 240km per radar provides extended tornado detection range and allows for better overlap of neighbouring radars in case of an outage. Dual-Polarization technology enables forecasters to better distinguish between rain, snow, hail and freezing rain. These improvements will give Canadians greater lead time to protect themselves from tornadoes and other severe weather and will better serve weather-sensitive industries with higher data quality and consistency to prepare for severe weather events.

Continuous weather services during the replacement process

Before a new radar is commissioned, at some point the old radar will have to be turned off. As we do for regular maintenance and unexpected technical problems, we will continue to provide weather services by using data from neighbouring radars since, wherever possible, the coverage of the radars has been designed to overlap. Weather forecasters also use satellite images, surface weather stations, lightning detectors and sophisticated computer models to monitor severe weather conditions. The scheduling of radar replacements will take into account seasonal severe weather periods to ensure minimal disruption and every effort will be made to minimize downtime. We will continue to use the Status of Canadian Radar Network page to inform you.

Health safety

The new weather radars comply with Health Canada’s Radio frequency exposure limits in all modes of operation. These guidelines are used to establish safe distances for radio frequency exposure to the general public. Compliance will be verified by a third party and must be demonstrated to Industry Canada before an operating license can be granted.

Radar structure

The radar structure is composed of an open lattice steel tower with a 12-metre diameter radome on top. The total height will vary from one site to another depending on the location and surroundings. Generally, the weather radars will be about 40 meters high or the equivalent of a 12-storey building.

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