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Backgrounder

History of the Canadian Hurricane Centre

The Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC) was created in 1987 after it became clear that Canadians needed an expert source for information that was focused specifically on how tropical cyclones affect Canada. Before the creation of the CHC, Canadians relied largely on forecasts from the United States for hurricane-specific information.

In the time since the CHC’s creation, the work done by the CHC has evolved significantly. Originally, the CHC focused on the marine community to ensure the safety and international competitiveness of weather-sensitive industries in Canada. Marine interests operating in the offshore economic zone need significant advance notice of impending tropical cyclone activity to take the necessary protective measures against the strong winds and rough seas associated with hurricanes and other types of tropical cyclones.  

In the first year of operating the CHC however, it became clear that inland interests, including the general public, would also benefit from the CHC supplementary information statements. To ensure the continued improvement and effectiveness of the CHC information our clients rely on, our forecasters have worked collaboratively with scientists in Environment Canada and throughout the world to improve the short and longer term forecasting of tropical systems. This includes continuing investigation into past seasons which has resulted in improvements to the Canadian computer modeling systems that guide our forecasters’ output which, over time, lead to better forecasts and warning services to the public. 

Now, 25 years later, the CHC’s core mandate remains the same: to help Canadians and our visitors protect themselves, their personal property and economic assets from the impacts of tropical cyclones, whether on land or at sea. During this time, CHC meteorologists have issued more than 2000 tropical cyclone information bulletins, which have helped Canadians prepare for the potential impacts of these powerful storms.

Key Dates in the Creation of the CHC

  • 1986 – The study, “A 30-year Climatology of Tropical Cyclones in Atlantic Canada” was commissioned to determine the need for a Canadian hurricane centre (Barks and Richards).
  • 1987 – Environment Canada established coastal hurricane centres in Victoria, British Columbia, and in Bedford, Nova Scotia (August 31).

Other notable dates  


1986

  • Environment Canada joins the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Regional Association IV (RA-IV) Hurricane Committee (responsible for the western North Atlantic, Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and eastern North Pacific)

1987

  • First Canadian hurricane forecasting specialists identified
  • CHC issues first bulletins (Hurricane Emily)

1989

  • First Environment Canada meteorologist attended the WMO RA-IV—Hurricane Training course (hosted by the United States National Hurricane Center).
  • Tropical Storm Hugo hits Ontario, marking the first time Doppler radar captures images of a tropical cyclone over Canada

1994

  • Hurricane software that prepares storm tracks and bulletins is developed/implemented

1996

  • First Canadian hurricane season annual report developed for the WMO

1997

  • CHC Parametric Wind-Model developed  
  • CHC website launched

2000

  • First Canadian flights into a tropical cyclone (Hurricane Michael) with National Research Council’s Convair 580 (dropsonde data images)

2001

  • Canadian flights into Tropical Storm Karen

2003

  • Canadian flights into Tropical Storm Isabel (first-ever inland tropical cyclone flight)
  • Hurricane Juan devastates parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island
  • Canadian flights into Hurricane Juan (dropsonde data images)
  • CHC hosts second International Workshop on Extratropical Transition

2004

  • Canadian tropical cyclone watches and warnings introduced
  • CHC Program Manager appointed to American Meterological Society International Hurricane Committee
  • Peter Bowyer, CHC Program Supervisor, awarded Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society Andrew Thompson Prize for Applied Meteorology for his work at the CHC

2005

  • CHC participates in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research flights into Hurricane Ophelia
  • Published “Climatology of Hurricanes for Canada: Increasing Our Awareness of the Threat”

2006

  • An experimental hurricane computer model is established at the CHC

2009

2010 

  • The Canadian Meteorological Centre and the CHC collaborated on a project resulting in a reduced false alarm rate for hurricanes predicted by the Global modelling system. 

2011

  • Primary forecast bulletin split into a general-language information statement (header code WOCN31) and a technical discussion (header code FXCN31)

2012

  • The CHC implements new forecast software including enhanced storm track and map products