Weather is something we all talk about, but for the past 30 years, Metro Belbas of Rossburn has done more than that.
The farmer and greenhouse operator has been keeping daily records of temperature and precipitation, as well as notes on the general character of weather, and submitting monthly info to Environment Canada.
For his dedication as an Environment Canada weather volunteer, Belbas was presented with the Morley K. Thomas Award and a Certificate of Merit by Allan Martin, meteorological inspector, Meteorological Service of Canada this summer at the farm located approximately six kilometres north of Rossburn on Provincial Road 264.
“While it has been a bit of a sacrifice over the years, it has also been very rewarding,” said Belbas, who along with wife Joan, raised two daughters and a son on their family farm. “Precipitation levels often vary from our neck of the woods to in town, however, the figures submitted are official for Rossburn North.”
A 30-year award is especially significant, from a climatological point of view, because that is when climatologists start to get a proper understanding of the climate in a particular area.
Among the 1,200 volunteer observers across Canada, Belbas completes twice-a-day precipitation readings and enters the information into the Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) data collection website called “COOL” (Cooperative Observations On-Line).
This information is then readily available to be accessed by any interested parties (agriculture/utilities/public/government/etc.). The information can be found on ECCC’s national weather information site: weather.gc.ca and more specifically the historical data pages: climate.weather.gc.ca/historical_data/search_historic_data_e.html. A search for “Rossburn 4 North” will give access to the 30-plus years of data collected by Belbas.
Along with the collection of data, most volunteers are severe weather spotters and help inform the forecasters of significant weather in an area, such as damaging winds, thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes.
With many observers aging, Environment Canada is finding it hard to attract young volunteers, and automated sites have filled in some of the data information.
The Environment Canada climatological program has used the services of volunteer weather observers since 1871, when Professor Kingston, the father of the weather service in Canada, recruited a network of 176 volunteer observers, which has now grown to 1,200 volunteers.
The Morley K. Thomas Award is a one-time plaque presented upon completion of 30 years of voluntary service. Morley Keith Thomas began his career with the Meteorological Service of Canada (now the Atmospheric Environment Service) in 1941. After serving time with the RCAF as a meteorological officer during the war, Thomas moved to the Climatology Division of the Meterological Service in Toronto. Currently he is a climate and meteorology consultant and is researching and writing the history of meteorology/climatology in Canada for the AES.