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Province supports improved flood forecasting

swan river, man. / The province will support a volunteer-based snow- and rainfall-monitoring network called the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS) in Manitoba, which will provide more accurate and timely weather data to enhance flood forecasting, Premier Greg Selinger announced April 27.

“Manitoba is always looking for ways to improve flood forecasting and monitoring so this is a good investment leading to improved precipitation and snowpack monitoring,” said Selinger. “Flood forecasting is a difficult task which requires sufficient, accurate and timely data, and we invite volunteers to join the enhanced high-density precipitation and snowfall observation network.”

Volunteers take daily measurements of rain, hail and snow, and then report the readings to the CoCoRaHS website (www.cocorahs.org). The entire volunteer network’s daily observations are instantly available for public and government viewing and use.

The volunteer system in Manitoba will support up to 200 sites in 2012, providing daily measurements of rain, snowfall and equivalent water content of the snow to be shared through the existing CoCoRaHS network, which extends to all 50 U.S. states and has over 15,000 American volunteer observers.

The data is used in a variety of ways by weather and water-management specialists, emergency managers, utilities, mosquito-control areas and farmers. CoCoRaHS originated with the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University in 1998 following a record-breaking flood at Fort Collins. The Canadian network was initiated in Manitoba in December 2011. The province is encouraging other provinces to participate in this grassroots program, said Selinger.

The province will provide just over $165,000 to operate and install software, website upgrades and weather-monitoring equipment for up to five years, the premier added. A licence and data-acquisition agreement is in place with the WeatherFarm team, the Canadian national co-ordinator for CoCoRaHS in collaboration with Earth Networks.

“This is a project in which anyone interested in improved weather information can participate,” said Selinger. “We encourage Manitoba’s farming community to join the network, as they are the stewards of a large portion of Manitoba land and deal with the impact of weather every day.”

Further information including details about volunteering is available at: www.cocorahs.org/Canada.aspx.

For more information contact Alison Sass, 204-983-4783 or [email protected], or Guy Ash, 204-984-6820 or [email protected]

Weather favours West Nile carriers

Don’t count your mosquitoes before they hatch.

A hot and dry summer may seem like the perfect way to stymie summer mosquitoes, but of the roughly 46 types of mosquitoes found across Manitoba all respond differently to different conditions, said University of Manitoba entomologist Terry Galloway.

“We’ve got a tremendous diversity of mosquitoes and they do a lot of different things,” said the professor. “When people ask what the mosquito population is going to be this summer, it’s really, really difficult to answer simply.”

All mosquitoes require standing water as habitat, but those that overwinter as adults — like the culex tarsalis — don’t need water to emerge in the spring.

That’s concerning because culex tarsalis can carry the West Nile virus and western equine encephalitis, said Galloway.

“They could come out strong this year,” he added.

But whether their numbers stay strong depends on how much standing water is available to them during the coming months. If dry conditions persist, they will have difficulty finding habitat in which to reproduce.

Most species of woodland mosquitoes and some Prairie species overwinter as eggs, and last winter’s light snowpack may have hurt their ability to emerge this summer, Galloway said.

The eggs are laid in depressions in the ground and hatch when the spring melt fills the depression with water.

“These kind have one generation per year and they only get one shot at it,” he said. But with a dry fall and winter being followed by a quick spring melt, those eggs would have been less likely to hatch.

However, a year that is rough for one type of skeeter is often good for another. The most common nuisance mosquito has several generations a year and can hatch after even a brief rain, so even drought may not stop them.

But Galloway stressed local conditions and weather will affect mosquito populations on a location-by-location basis.

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