This two hour session is an overview of what to look for when observing for severe weather. Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada will provide guidance on what to look for, how and what to report, and how to stay safe.
Environment Canada’s severe weather meteorologists have a variety of tools at their disposal to detect and track thunderstorm activity. These tools include Doppler weather radar, satellite imagery and a lightning detection network. This information can provide the meteorologists with a good sense of which storms may produce damaging weather like large hail, violent winds, flooding rains or tornadoes. However, they do not necessarily provide the meteorologist with a sense of what may be happening right at ground level. Therefore, real-time, on-the-ground information from trained spotters continues to be an integral part of Environment Canada’s Severe Weather Watch and Warning Program.
CANWARN volunteers are trained to look for clues in the sky as to which storms may produce damaging weather. They can also report important information on hail size and any damage that has resulted from the passage of a storm. They can send in their reports directly to the Ontario Storm Prediction Centre through an unlisted, toll-free phone number, a special email address or through a local ham radio network if they are a ham radio operator. Information from all of these sources is monitored by the Weather Centre 24/7. Reports received by CANWARN volunteers often play an integral role in the decision to issue or update a warning bulletin for a given area and specific mention is often made of the type of information received by a storm spotter within the text of the warning bulletin.
CANWARN volunteers come from all walks of life; amateur radio operators, the Canadian Red Cross, first responders, municipal/provincial/federal government employees, teachers and many others. Environment Canada holds a series of training sessions across the province each spring to refresh the knowledge of existing volunteers and to welcome new volunteers to the program. The training normally lasts about 21/2 hours and there is no cost to attend. The training covers the basics of thunderstorm formation, what differentiates a severe from a non-severe thunderstorm, the types of damage severe thunderstorms can produce, what to watch for in the sky, what to report to the Storm Prediction Centre and a series of safety tips.