February 22, 2013 — Effective March 13, 2013 Environment Canada will make some changes to the public alerting program in an effort to provide more detailed information about the potential threat of a severe thunderstorm or tornado.
As the spring season inches closer, so does the start of severe thunderstorm and tornado season.
Officials say it's important to be prepared and changes to the public alerting program will help.
According to Environment Canada, the warning content within all severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings will contain a forecast valid time for each alert bulletin.
Beginning March 13, "a valid time will be added to allow the public to have a better sense of how long the threat exists," explains Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meteorologist at Environment Canada. "In addition, Environment Canada has worked with Provincial Emergency Management Organizations and other agencies to develop more specific impact and call-to-action statements that better define the threat a severe summer storm may pose."
Coulson adds that these impact and call-to-action statements may centre on things like large hail, damaging winds or flooding rains as the most significant part of a given storm.
"As more becomes known about the nature of a storm through things like Doppler radar or volunteer storm spotter reports, the forecaster will now have the ability to provide more information on the greatest threat a given storm poses to the public."
"For someone who has no training in weather or hasn't been immersed in the industry, they may not understand watches and warnings like we think," says Dayna Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network. "So these changes will help clarify what the watch or warning is saying."
In addition to these changes, a new summary of all active severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings will also become available in a separate message called the "Alert Message Summary."
According to Vettese, these alert message summaries will be very helpful to broadcast the most important information to the public.
"To have a bulletin solely dedicated to the summary of all tornado and thunderstorm warnings is very helpful for us to get the out the most pertinent, accurate and timely information as soon as possible."
Coulson says all of these changes are in response to Environment Canada's effort to improve the accuracy and content of severe weather warnings.
"Severe thunderstorm and tornado warnings constitute some of the most challenging warnings to produce and may sometimes have relatively short lead times," he adds. "It is hoped that these changes will provide the Canadian Public with more information about a given event and allow them to better determine their best course of action should they be in an affected area."