Iqaluit ‘supersite’ technology improves Arctic weather forecasts

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Iqaluit’s weather station supersite is providing reliable, relevant weather information in near real-time to northern communities and forecasters since its final September 2019 upgrade, according to Environment Canada.

Situated next to the Iqaluit airport, the supersite is equipped with new remote sensing technologies that collect detailed meteorological data. The technology provides information about winds, water vapour, precipitation, clouds, fog and radiation fluxes.

Panoramic view of the Iqaluit supersite on Oct. 2015. photo by Zen Mariani

Environment Canada researcher Zen Mariani says the instruments provide extremely detailed information at very high resolution on the state of the atmosphere above and around the site.

They provide data at a range away from the site, explained Mariani. In other words, this means measurements in height can be made several kilometers from above the ground.
The new technology also allows for measurements in hazardous weather, making it now possible to collect data during storms or high wind conditions.

The data will be used to test new weather monitoring technologies, explained Mariani. The goal is to increase Environment Canada’s ability to provide early warnings about changing weather and environmental conditions.

“One of the main goals of the research being conducted at the site is to improve our Arctic weather forecast model,” Mariani said.

“As such, we target improvements in the model that won’t just impact the weather forecast at Iqaluit, but over the entire Arctic region as a whole.”

Iqaluit was chosen as a supersite because it is a transportation hotspot and lies in the path of typical Arctic storm systems, said Mariani, adding that the site allows to test instruments in Arctic tundra.

The Iqaluit site began to be equipped with new instruments in 2015, but most recently in September 2019 the final set of new instruments were installed.

Since the instruments are completely automated and remote-controlled, measurements are conducted automatically, year-round without requiring an on-site operator. However with the new technologies there are some challenges.

“Some challenges include transferring the vast amount of data collected at these sites to our internal servers, as well as ensuring the instruments remain operational in the harsh climates,” said the researcher.

Presently, Iqaluit and Whitehorse are the only locations within the Canadian Arctic where weather supersites are located.

To access near real-time weather including plots and raw data files visit obrs.ca.

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