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Serving up weather with a ham radio

Sana Ahmed, staff writer
November 2, 2011 — Dugas uses the ham radio to transmit up-to-date weather reports to Environment Canada.

Dugas has been using the ham radio since he was fourteen-years-old
Dugas has been using the ham radio since he was fourteen-years-old

Ever wonder what you can do with a “ham” radio. Matthieu Dugas is one person who has made great use of one. Also known as an amateur radio, ham radio is a way of exchanging non-commercial messages or information.

Dugas got his license before he even learned to drive.

“I have been a ham radio operator since 1993,” he says. “I got my license at the age of fourteen.”

What started out as a fun way to connect with people from around the world, has now changed into Dugas regularly updating Environment Canada about weather through his ham radio.

His passion about the weather came from his father, who was a pilot. Since his wife bought him his very own weather station, he has been taking weather readings for Environment Canada.

The radio helps provide accurate “ground-truthing“ reports
The radio helps provide accurate “ground-truthing“ reports

“It’s essentially called ground-truthing,” explains Environment Canada’s Bob Robichaud. “It confirms on the ground what we see with our satellites and radar equipment. It also fills out some of the gaps in the observation network.”

The information that Dugas gathers from his weather station is particularly useful for forecasters during active weather. The real-time information can help them to better track winter storms, for example.

If Environment Canada wants reports of rain, freezing rain or snow, the ham radio helps a forecaster to fine-tune their reports.

Another interesting aspect about the Dugas’ ham radio is that it doesn’t stop working even during a power outage, because he’s got back-up power.

With files from Shelley Steeves

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