Tests underway on new weather radar tower serving BC’s southern interior – Kelowna News

Tests underway on new weather radar tower serving BC’s southern interior – Kelowna News

The completion of a new Environment Canada radar tower on Mount Silver Star in Vernon can’t come soon enough for residents of BC’s Interior who rely on the service.

Gale Tremblay of Tremblay Excavating says his company has commercial snow removal and strata clearing contracts for clients throughout Kelowna’s north half.

Tremblay says that since starting their business in 2003, they’ve relied on radar data from Environment Canada to send plow crews to certain parts of the city.

“I follow radar more than written reports,” he says.

Environment Canada is on a seven-year term the process to upgrade its radar network throughout the country.

As a result, the radar tower on Silver Star Mountain—which serves the entire BC Southern Interior—was taken offline in July to allow construction of the new tower to begin. The old tower was available on demand until the end of September.

That means Tremblay’s business has been running blind since Friday when snow hit the Okanagan. The forecast on Monday evening, for example, called for the snow to decrease around 19:00

“So we left the plow, there was nothing in the forecast and there was nothing on the radar … and then somebody woke up at 4 this morning and we got four inches.”

Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang told Castanet that the new radar tower began the “burn-in” phase last week, meaning they are testing the sweep and data quality.

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

Lang says the new tower will be able to provide double the distance and more accurate information at 240 kilometers. Exams will be held every six minutes instead of the previous 10.

The longer Doppler range means meteorologists will be able to see cloud rotation further away, which will help with wind warnings.

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

“It is able to detect what type of precipitation it encounters. So is it a snowflake? Is it hail or a drop of rain?’ said Lang.

While the radar tower is mostly used for short-range forecasts, in hours not days, the data ends up being fed into weather models, which ultimately produce weather forecasts, Lang said.

“We’re as excited as everyone else to get these radars. And we’re just as impatient as everyone else,” said Lang. “This is an exciting change, an important improvement to the system across Canada.”

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

The Prince George radar tower is also in the process of being replaced and should be up and running by the end of the year.

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