Automatic weather station expanded, modernized

Shoal Lake Airport’s data collection part of grid design

The weather is always a topic of conversation, and with recent upgrades to the automatic weather station at the Shoal Lake Airport, there will be even more details to discuss.

According to Nathon Kucherhan, supervisor of Meteorological Services of Canada, based in Winnipeg, the upgrade includes all new infrastructure: cable, signal and power structures and masts, junction boxes and sensors.

“Working over a two-week period in October, the weather itself wasn’t too kind, as the abundance of moisture did cause some difficulty for staff,” said Kucherhan, “but as we look at the site today, the parameters are enhanced with an all-season precipitation amount gauge, three snow-depth sensors, three snow targets, two metre wind sensors, triple temperature versus a single, and a new humidity sensor.”

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The upgrade at Shoal Lake doesn’t place the site within aviation standards, but the quantity and quality of data used for numerous climatic activities will increase.

“Sensor placement is the same at every station across the province,” Kucherhan said. “Data from local monitoring stations is reported to Winnipeg, and from there it goes to CMC Montreal where it is collected based on quality assurance and quality control.”

It’s been just over a year since the Rural Municipality of Yellowhead and the Shoal Lake Airport Authority approved a request from Environment Canada (now known as Environment and Climate Change Canada) to expand and modernize Shoal Lake’s surface weather station.

Kucherhan said Shoal Lake is on a grid system with other communities across Manitoba, and falls under 1,300 surface weather and climate stations within Canada.

Meteorological Service of Canada provides Canadians with the information they need to make informed decisions to protect their health, safety and security in the face of changing weather and environmental conditions.

Accurate and timely forecasts and warnings are critical to the Canadian economy, where many industries including agriculture, energy production, transportation and forestry are directly affected by weather conditions.

The primary users of this data include the Public Forecast Office, to support forecasts for southern Manitoba; the media, to provide current conditions in and around the community; Environment and Climate Change Canada climatologists, to use in their research; the community of Shoal Lake and the local farmers, to know the local conditions.

Situated northwest of Shoal Lake, the airport is the main medi-vac location for the communities in this part of western Manitoba, so the need for accurate wind conditions is essential. Due to this, the Town of Shoal Lake contacted Environment Canada in the early 1990s, requesting that a weather station be installed at the airport. The project proceeded, with the assistance of the Shoal Lake community, that contributed to the initial build by holding fundraisings to raise money for some of the instruments.

Prior to the installation of the automatic weather station in 1993, the area had a volunteer climate-observing program. The modernization and expansion of the station will ensure that the provision of valuable weather data will continue in a way that keeps up with the current standards in both quantity and quality.

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