Manitoba Daily

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Environment Canada is developing an atmospheric river ranking system

Key takeaways:

  • In the aftermath of the atmospheric river, Environment Canada is developing a new ranking system for weather patterns.
  • The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium’s acting lead, University of Victoria climatology professor Charles Curry.

According to Deputy Premier and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, Environment Canada is designing a new ranking system for the weather pattern in the aftermath of the atmospheric river that caused deadly floods and mudslides in British Columbia this week.

During a Saturday report on the province’s flood recovery, Farnworth said he had spoken with the federal weather service about the planned system.

“This will assist all of us in being better prepared for everything from localised flooding and winds to larger storm occurrences,” Farnworth added. “This new technique is based on a system that the United States already employs.”

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Atmospheric rivers are lengthy, high plumes of moisture-laden air that can bring hours or days of different intensity rainfall to North America’s west coast.

Because of climate change, the weather pattern is becoming more prevalent, and a one-to-five scale established at the University of California aims to quantify the intensity of particular atmospheric rivers.

The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium’s acting lead, University of Victoria climatology professor Charles Curry, told CTV News that Environment Canada could use meteorological data it already gathers to establish the scale earlier this week.

“That information may be directly piped from weather forecasts and also other data into an analysis that produces the category for the amount of water vapour that atmospheric river is packing at the time,” Curry explained.

A scale of this magnitude might also give the city or provincial officials a framework to implement the existing Alert Ready system for floods caused by powerful atmospheric rivers. Unfortunately, since 2019, British Columbia has been the only jurisdiction in Canada that has not adopted the technology.

B.C. weather: Environment Canada working on ranking system for atmospheric rivers

During his prepared statements on Saturday, Farnworth made no mention of the Alert Ready system. When asked if there would be any further communication in reaction to a storm reaching the province’s North Coast this weekend, the minister said Environment Canada has issued a warning for that region and is evaluating advisories for the South Coast as well.

“As the storm flows south, Environment Canada has told me that they’re looking at 20 to 40 millimetres of rain,” Farnworth said. “Normally, that would not be a cause for concern, but, given the present saturation that we’ve seen in the ground, we’re keeping a tight eye on that.”

Communication, according to the minister, will be “critical” in the following days.

“We will be observing, and if there are concerns or challenges, we will deploy personnel to those places,” Farnworth said. “But the essential aspect right now is to have a strong connection with Environment Canada, so that we can understand, you know, the weather and what to expect and if it changes and what that means on an hourly basis.”

Source: CTV News

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