Backgrounders on various weather services: chapter 1

Severe Weather Forecasts

Canada’s weather is full of contrasts with its hot summers and cold, snowy winters, and with these seasons comes dangerous weather conditions. Helping Canadians protect themselves, their families and their property from the hazards of severe weather is an important part of Environment Canada’s (EC) mandate. In fact, EC is the nation’s official source for: weather watches; warnings; advisories; special weather and information statements.

Severe weather conditions include:

  • hurricanes
  • severe thunderstorms
  • flooding
  • extreme cold
  • extreme heat
  • heavy rain and snow
  • hail
  • snow squalls
  • blizzards
  • tornados

EC also runs the Canadian Hurricane Centre in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, which provides meteorological information on hurricanes, tropical storms and post-tropical storms to help Canadians make informed decisions of how to protect themselves and their property.

EC issues weather watches when conditions are favourable for the development of a weather or environmental hazard that poses a significant threat to public safety and property, but when the occurrence, location, and/or timing of the expected condition(s) is still too uncertain to issue a warning.

EC issues weather warnings when a hazardous weather or environmental event that poses a significant threat to public safety and property is certain or imminent.

EC provides expert advice to emergency management authorities to mitigate emergency situations when weather conditions are important factors.

Severe weather analyses and forecasting

EC meteorologists produce severe weather warnings and forecasts for Canadians 24/7.

Forecasting severe weather begins with an examination of real-time weather data. This leads to an analysis of which atmospheric processes are occurring, and ends with a prediction of the severe weather events that could occur.

All bulletins, forecasts and warnings are produced with the aid of a great deal of technology including:

  • EC’s supercomputer
  • Satellites
  • Doppler radar
  • wind profilers
  • ground weather stations
  • weather balloon data
  • lightning detection

How do weather warnings reach the public?

 When severe weather is on its way, EC takes its role as the official warning provider very seriously. Each year EC issues on average 15,000 severe weather warnings, watches and information statements via:

  • Environment Canada’s Weatheradio system, which continually broadcasts on VHF radio frequencies;
  • Online at Environment Canada’s Meteorological Service website;
  • By phone through the local automated telephone recordings;
  • User-pay phone 1-900 / 1-888 service that enables callers to access meteorologists from 5 am to 6 pm daily;
  • RSS weather and weather warning feeds; 
  • Media outlets across the country

The media is one of EC’s primary means of reaching Canadians about severe weather. The media generally obtain information through their local wire services or through EC’s internet media portal.  The media are vital to ensuring that Canadians receive weather information and alerts in a timely manner.

For more information on the science behind severe weather forecasting, visit the following links:

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