A federal audit released this month raises questions about the reliability of Environment Canada's weather data collection in Canada's North.
The audit report, prepared by federal Environment and Sustainable Development Commissioner Scott Vaughan's office, said the weather service has no way of telling if its warnings nationwide for severe weather events, like tornadoes and blizzards, are accurate.
In the North in particular, Environment Canada relies on an inadequate system for checking on weather patterns, as well as obtaining what information it can from airplane pilots and U.S. sources.
"Environment Canada stated itself that their coverage in the North is very sparse, and they're not able to really provide a lot of severe weather warnings in the North because of that," Paul Morse, who led the audit, told CBC News on Friday.
The audit, tabled Feb. 5 in the House of Commons, says Environment Canada has no effective way to verify the accuracy or timeliness of its severe weather warnings across the country, although it spent about $340 million in the 2006-07 fiscal year on weather forecasting and other related services.
"That's the thing that really justifies their existence, and we found that they had no way of verifying whether they were accurate or whether they had missed some warnings or whether they were getting better or worse," Morse said.
"We also found that they had a whole bunch of different tools for disseminating the warnings, and they weren't really sure which ones were the best or which ones they should be using in which circumstances."
Morse said the department has promised to address the issues raised in the audit. However, Morse added that his office is concerned about the future of the weather service, as it has no long-term plan or strategy.