Watching the weather

Keith &
Keith & Heather Nicol
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Hikers enjoy a fine fall day on the Little Port Head Trail.

For people who like to hike, cross-country ski or do just about any other outdoor activity, the weather plays a huge role in how enjoyable the outing will be. Most people like to head out if the weather is clear and sunny and prefer to head indoors if the forecast is for wind and precipitation. Often good clothing will help make poor weather more bearable, so wear clothing that is waterproof and windproof for those days when you are heading out in wet-windy weather.

When we are planning a trip we try to get an updated forecast. This usually means checking the computer and looking at both the Environment Canada and Weather Network forecasts. They usually are quite similar, but at times they vary a bit since they use slightly different models for generating forecasts. I find the icons the Weather Network uses are generally more favourable since they will show a sun and a cloud for a day when it is partly sunny, whereas the Environment Canada forecast seems to just show a cloud icon under these situations. Also the Weather Network usually will forecast the amount of precipitation over the next several days, whereas Environment Canada will simply say showers or flurries and won’t give an amount if the forecast is more than a couple of days away. However be warned that if the Weather Network states that in five days that we will get 20-centimetres of snow, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it will occur (Environment Canada might well say it will snow five days from now with no amount given). No one that I know of has done a verification of the Weather Network forecasts in western Newfoundland, so whether we actually got that 20 cm of snow is anyone’s guess. Weather forecasts are most accurate over the next 24-36 hours and its accuracy falls off after that.

 

Marble Mountain doppler

Next if precipitation is forecast we usually try to see if it will be where we are going to go sea kayaking or skiing. Precipitation may be very extensive or patchy and this can usually be seen by going to either the Weather Network or Environment Canada websites and clicking on the radar symbol or icon. This will bring up the Marble Mountain doppler radar site for the Corner Brook area, and it can be used to see where the precipitation is actually falling. Often we find that when the forecast says “scattered showers for western Newfoundland” that this might mean rain for the Stephenville area or Gros Morne but not for Corner Brook. Or it might mean that Corner Brook is likely to have showers, but the Port au Port Peninsula won’t. Note that the shade of colour will indicate the intensity of the precipitation that is occurring.

We like to use the Weather Network radar site since it not only shows the precipitation pattern for the past several hours, but also what is precipitation forecast is over the next few hours. We have also found the radar is not perfect — it has a hard time with light rain and we have been caught heading out sea kayaking when the radar map looked fine only to be hit with showers that it didn’t pick up. However, it is usually quite accurate and is a useful tool for making outdoor activity decisions.

 

Contributors Keith and Heather Nicol live in Corner Brook and are avid

 explorers of Newfoundland. Keith can be reached at knicol@swgc.mun.ca

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