British Columbia

Environment Canada weather station forced to close because of new UBC-Okanagan parking lot

An Environment and Climate Change Canada weather station situated on UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna, B.C., is set to close to make way for a parking lot.

The Upper Air station collects temperature, humidity and wind condition data used in weather forcasting

Technician Afeworki Mekonnen about to launch a weather balloon from the Upper Air weather station in Kelowna, B.C. (Afeworki Mekonnen)

An Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) weather station situated on UBC's Okanagan campus in Kelowna, B.C., is set to close to make way for a parking lot.

ECCC is shutting down the Upper Air station at the end of June because, with the parking lot expansion, it will make no longer be safe for technicians to launch weather balloons from outside the station.

A spokesperson says the agency knew in October 2015 that UBC Okanagan was planning to expand its parking lot but it only found out a week ago the project was going ahead.

The Upper Air station is one of four such stations in B.C. and one of 31 across Canada.

"Data collected from instruments sent aloft with weather balloons twice per day are used to give computer models a three-dimensional picture of the atmosphere on a global scale," wrote ECCC spokesperson Pierre Manoni in a statement.

The data is also used by weather forecasters to assess the temperature, humidity and wind conditions through the atmosphere, according to Manoni.

'Big gap' in amount and quality of information collected

A technician contracted by ECCC to run the weather station told CBC News he was only notified a week ago the station is closing.

"The forecasters and the people involved in using the data will definitely notice it. They will miss it," he said.

"There's going to be a big gap in the amount of information and the quality of information they'll be getting."

The data collected at the Kelowna Upper Air Station is not essential for local weather forecasting, according to ECCC, but the station is an important source of information for computer models.

The agency is looking for a suitable permanent location to resume weather balloon launches.

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