February 1, 2012

Environment Canada - our weather Predictors?

I am a Canadian and one of my pet peeves is Environment Canada, which is our national weather service. 

In the Fall of 2011, Environment Canada predicted, in its long range forecast, that the winter of 2011-2012, would be colder than normal, especially across the Prairies of Canada, and in Winnipeg where I live. 

In reality, this Winter has been one of the best Winters that I have experienced in years. It has been mild. When we would normally get minus 30 Degree Celsius temperatures for weeks on end, it has been minus 8 Degrees Celsius, plus 2 degrees C. and other odd variations in temperatures which have been out of scope with Environment Canada's predictions. 

I thank God on my hands and knees for this boost in temperatures. Facing some of these Prairie winters can half kill you with the severity of it all, especially as you age. There have been many cases in the past decades in which people have frozen to death here - they are outside shovelling snow and collapse and freeze to death or in one case, a woman (in her 30's), was taking out her garbage and slipped and fell, knocking herself out and was found frozen to death on her backyard sidewalk. 

When this is taken into consideration, Winter isn't all that funny here. 

I always remember an incident that occurred 20 years ago. I was on holidays from work. It was a beautiful Summer's day in July and I was monkeying around the house, doing chores and just enjoying my time off. Environment Canada predicted a high of 23 degrees C. I went outside and looked at the thermometer on my deck (which was facing North and in the shade) and it said that it was 24 degrees C. I went inside and kept the Environment Canada weather Channel on. They then announced that the high for the day would be 24 degrees C. I went outside 20 minutes later and it was 25 degrees C. Environment Canada predicted that the high for the day would be 25 degrees C.  This went on and on, all afternoon, until the temperature reached 32 degrees C. and guess what? Environment Canada predicted that the high for the day would be .....(wait for it)...... 32 degrees C.  No kidding. 

In reality, they were out by 9 degrees Celsius or about 16 degrees Fahrenheit. If this was the U.S.A., it would be like predicting that the daily temperature high would be 70 degrees and it ends up being 86 degrees.

I was sitting on my deck, enjoying the heat and thought "Environment Canada doesn't have a clue. These poor dudes can't predict their way out of a paper bag."

With Doppler Radar, computer models and all sorts of aids to predicting weather, you would presume that these Environment Canada meteorologists, who are very well paid, would get it right. 

Environment Canada, being staffed by polite Canadians, always apologizes for these prediction errors, after the fact. 

Environment Canada Dudes - revamp the computer models! Something isn't right with your methodology.

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