Environment Canada mulls weather radar in the North

The forced landing of an Air Tindi plane carrying five passengers last month highlighted the gaps in weather information for pilots flying in the North. Now Environment Canada says it’s trying to decide if the North needs weather radar.
An Air Tindi Cessna Caravan made an emergency landing on Great Slave Lake in the early morning of Nov 20 due to icing. Five passengers and the pilot escaped unharmed. The incident highlighted gaps in weather information available to pilots in the North. (Transportation Safety Board/Facebook)

Environment Canada is trying to decide if the North needs weather radar.

The issue came to the fore last month when an Air Tindi flight carrying five passengers was forced to land on Great Slave Lake due to severe icing. Some said the incident highlighted gaps in weather information north of 60.

In southern Canada, surveillance radar systems are used to track current weather conditions. Thirty-one radar sites cover the area where 95 per cent of the country’s population lives.

But there are no radar sites that cover the three northern territories.

Asked why there are no radar sites in the North, the CBC received this response from spokesperson Mélanie Quesnel:

“The current radar network was put in place 20 years ago in Southern Canada and no new radar has been installed since. The Meteorological Service of Canada is currently evaluating the need for radars in the North.”

Without radar, pilots in the North rely on weather forecasts, some satellite images and information from communities when trying to figure out what they might run into along their flight route.

In the South, pilots can also look to radar, which tracks precipitation and can detect thunderstorms or tornadoes.

Environment Canada says the priority has been high-density areas, and the last major upgrade was finished 10 years ago.

"Harsh weather and climate conditions must be factored in when installing new radar technologies in the North," Quesnel says. 

It says in the past four years, the federal government has installed eight new weather stations along the Arctic Coast.

They provide weather and ice information for marine navigation along the Northwest Passage.

Environment Canada says information from those stations can also help northerners prepare for severe weather conditions.


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