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Weather in British Columbia: Environment Canada is working on a rating system for atmospheric rivers, Minister says

Vancouver –

In the wake of the atmospheric river that caused devastating flooding and mudslides in British Columbia this week, Environment Canada is developing a new rating system for weather conditions, according to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth.

Farnworth said in an update on the resumption of flooding in the province on Saturday that he had spoken with the federal weather agency about the planned system.

“It will help us all be better prepared for everything from localized floods and winds to larger storms,” Farnworth said. “This new approach is based on a system the United States is already using.”

Atmospheric rivers are long, high plumes of moisture-laden air that can bring several hours or days of precipitation of varying intensity to the west coast of North America.

The weather model is becoming more common due to climate change, and a one to five scale developed at the University of California seeks to quantify the intensity of individual atmospheric rivers.

Earlier this week, University of Victoria climatology professor Charles Curry, acting head of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium, told CTV News that Environment Canada could use the weather information it is already collecting to put into practice. scale work.

“This information can be fed directly from the weather forecast and other data into an analysis that calculates this category for the amount of water vapor that the atmospheric river is packing at that time,” said Curry.

Such a scale could also provide a framework for municipal or provincial officials to implement the Alert Ready system available for flooding caused by rivers with intense atmospheres. British Columbia remains the only province in Canada that has not used the technology since 2019.

Farnworth did not mention the Alert Ready system in his prepared remarks on Saturday. When asked if additional communications are planned in response to a storm approaching the province’s north coast over the weekend, the minister said Environment Canada has issued warnings for the region and is also considering advisories. on the south coast.

“As the rain moves south, what Environment Canada told me is that they are anticipating about 20 to 40 millimeters of rain,” Farnworth said. “Normally that wouldn’t be a problem in terms of concern, but obviously given the current saturation that we have seen in the soil, we are monitoring this very closely.”

The minister said communication would be “key” in the coming days.

“Obviously we will be monitoring and if there are any issues and challenges, resources will be deployed in those areas,” Farnworth said. “But the key thing right now is having good communication with Environment Canada, so that we can – on an hourly basis – understand, you know, the weather and what to expect and if that changes and what does this mean? “

With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Penny Daflos

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