No short-term plans to release atmospheric river ranking system: Environment Canada

Dec 1 2021, 11:21 pm

Despite some details being shared by the provincial government, Environment Canada says there are no short-term plans to release a ranking system for atmospheric rivers.

On November 20, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth discussed a potential ranking system, saying that it was being expedited after the floods and mudslides caused by torrential rain in BC. At the time, it was said the program was expected to launch in January 2022.

“Based on what we’ve seen in BC, Environment Canada is speeding up developing a new ranking system for atmospheric rivers,” Farnorth said on November 20. “This will help all of us be better prepared for everything from local flooding and winds to bigger storm events.”

During an update on Wednesday, Farnworth said that such a system wouldn’t be ready for years. Despite this news, he stressed that it doesn’t detract from the Ministry’s ability to prepare for severe weather events in the future.

“The bottom line is this: Environment Canada is working on that ranking system. We’re very happy that they are and I’d like to see it and I expect that it will be a priority.”

“But the fact that it will not be ready in January will not detract from our ability to be prepared to ensure that we have as robust a response as required.”

Bobby Sekhon, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist for Environment Canada, confirmed that such a system is being worked on but says that there are no short-term plans to release it to the public.

He stressed that such a rating scale would simply be a new way of presenting data that is already collected and shared.

“It is important to note that an atmospheric rating scale is simply a new and different way of aggregating and characterizing data that is already shared,” he tells Daily Hive in an email. “It would not have changed our weather forecasts, watches, or warnings for the BC flooding situation.”

Sekhon did confirm that Environment and Climate Change Canada scientists were “investigating a system” but stressed that all new products require rigorous testing and evaluation to ensure their validity.

“A classification system for atmospheric rivers would rely on the same prediction system that generates current forecasts and warnings and would not, therefore, increase forecast accuracy,” he says.

“The reliability of the scale in complementing weather predictions, and other specialized products, would form part of the testing that needs to be undertaken.”

Atmospheric rivers are “like rivers in the sky” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) definition.

They are long and narrow regions in the atmosphere that carry water vapour. Then, when they make landfall, they dump the water vapour as precipitation.

With files from Sarah Anderson 

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