Watching the Weather

Posted on Oct 18, 2012

Have you been watching the weather? I certainly have. In my profession you always do! Though I know that skiing powder is still a little ways off I can tell you that it looks like we’ll be seeing some snow in the Island Alps this week end.

Watching the approach of the ski and snowboard season got me thinking about how many of you ask me which sources I use for weather both to know what has happened recently and to make forecasts. Of course with the internet these days the publicly available informations is incredible. I remember “back in the day” when we were running a helicopter skiing operation in the Himalayas, we had to set up our own satellite system to bring down a few pictures to make our crude weather predictions. It’s gone way beyond that now and though I have access to some stuff professionally with the avalanche centre that I can not share with you, there is so much in the public realm that you would be hard pressed to run out of interesting stuff to look at!

To see what has been happening in the island weather the BC Hydro Hydromet Data site  provides real time temperatures and precipitation as well as winds at some sites. Of particular interest is the Wolf River station (WOL on the map). This one is at tree line elevation at about 1450m. The geographical spread of the other locations will give you a good idea of the variation in precipitation amounts found on different parts of the island. The standard Environment Canada web site also has historical data that you can access. On the page of the location that you are interested in scroll down to the “Historical Data” section at the bottom of the page and click on the “More Info” and then “Historical Weather”. You can look at daily values over a  month or click on a particular day and look at hourly data for that day. Be aware that for many stations the data will only come up to about twelve hours or more previous.

For making weather predictions mountainweatherservices.com is a great portal for everything mountain weather. Check out their links page and from there the Education Other page. The latter includes amazing educational resources to help you understand the incredible array of possibilities which meteorologist Uwe Graman is offering on this comprehensive mountain weather site. A few of my favourites are the MM5 precipitation models, the satellite pictures and the various aviation weather resources.

A more crude yet simple site is snow-forecast.com. The information on this site is all generated by one computer model. You ned to be aware that larger scale models like this one are crude in the way that they model terrain and that different models will give you different predictions as to what will happen in the weather. If you rely only on one model you will often get your predictions wrong. Better to compare a number of models and see where they agree and disagree. To compare many models at once I have become aware of a fantastic new site at spotwx.com. Enter a location name or coordinates, or use the map to choose your location and the then click on one of a number of models to see their outputs for that location. The map even shows you where the grid from each model sits on the map. Thanks to meteorologist Mort Allingham for turning me on to this site.

Finally if your time is limited, you don’t really want to be a weather geek and/or you don’t mind waiting for more snow to fly, then just check in with the Island Avalanche Bulletin at islandavalanchebulletin.com. As avalanche forecasters we do all the work for you in looking at the resources I have mentioned above and many more to bring you not only a forecast of avalanche hazard but also detailed weather predictions and descriptions of how these will affect conditions in the mountains.

I’d love to hear your feedback and questions on the above. Drop me a line at jan@islandalpineguides.com to share your thoughts.

Keep your fingers crossed for dry pow soon!

Jan and the team at Island Alpine Guides