Testing Underway at New Radar Weather Tower Serving British Columbia’s Southern Interior – Kelowna News


The completion of a new Environment Canada radar tower on Venron’s Silver Star Mountain cannot come soon enough for residents of interior British Columbia who rely on the service.

Gale Tremblay of Tremblay Excavating says his company holds commercial and strata snow removal contracts for clients in the northern half of Kelowna.

Tremblay says they’ve relied on Environment Canada radar data since they started their business in 2003 to send snow removal personnel to certain parts of the city.

“I follow the radar much more than the written reports,” she says.

Environment Canada is in the midst of a seven-year process to upgrade its radar network across the country.

As a result, the Silver Star Mountain Radar Tower – which serves all of British Columbia’s southern interior – was taken offline in July so construction of the new tower could begin. The old tower was available when needed until the end of September.

That means Tremblay’s business was flying blind when snow hit the Okanagan starting Friday. The Monday evening forecast, for example, called for a decrease in snow around 7 p.m.

“So we stopped plowing, there was nothing in the forecast and nothing showing up on the radar…and then someone wakes up at 4am this morning and shit we got four inches.”

Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang told Castanet that the new radar tower began its “run-in” phase last week, which means they are testing scans and data quality.

They are working to make radar data available to the public again on December 5.

Lang says the new tower will be able to provide double the range at 240 kilometers and more accurate information. Scans will take place every six minutes instead of the previous 10.

A longer Doppler range will mean meteorologists will be able to see cloud rotation further away, making wind warnings easier.

The new tower also uses dual polarization technology, which means it sends a beam both vertically and horizontally.

“It is able to discern the type of precipitation it encounters. So it’s a snowflake? Is it a hailstone or a drop of rain? Lang said.

While the radar tower is primarily used for short-term, hour-not-day forecasts, the data ends up being ingested into weather models that eventually produce full-line weather forecasts, Lang said.

“We are as excited as everyone to have these radars. And we’re as excited as everyone else,” Lang said. “It’s an exciting change, it’s a major upgrade for the system across Canada.

The federal government announced in 2017 that purchasing 20 new radar stations for the entire country would cost $83 million.

The Prince George radar tower is also being replaced and should be operational by the end of the year.


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