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Backgrounder

Weather and Marine Services in the Arctic

Budget 2010 announced $26.5 million over five years to Environment Canada and $8.3 million over five years to Fisheries and Oceans Canada to deliver meteorological and navigational services in the Arctic to meet Canada’s commitments to the International Maritime Organization. 

The Meteorological (MET) Initiative

The meteorological initiative involves the expansion of Environment Canada’s domestic marine and ice services to provide a full suite of meteorological information, including sea state and freezing spray forecasts, observational data, and weather and ice information services, to the newly-defined Arctic MET areas. The areas include Canadian Arctic waters, such as the Northwest Passage, and adjacent waters north of Alaska and along part of the western coast of Greenland. 

This meteorological information will be standardized and coordinated for delivery through the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, according to international protocols and expectations established by the International Maritime Organization. As an ancillary benefit, the domestic services provided to Northerners and economic sectors operating in the North will be enhanced.

Observed sea ice decline in the Arctic prompted the international community to set a firm timetable for implementing the new Arctic meteorological and navigational areas. Test services began on July 6, 2010 in preparation for the official launch of services on June 1, 2011.

By the end of the fifth year of the implementation phase, weather and ice forecast services and warning operations will be provided around-the-clock. Bulletins will be disseminated via the INMARSAT-C satellite, where coverage exists, and via the Fisheries and Oceans Canada high frequency radios, where satellite coverage has not yet been established. The services will be extended from seasonal to year-round coverage, and to represent all newly-defined Arctic areas for which Canada has accepted responsibility. In addition, enhanced information will be available through existing domestic channels.

Transmissions will be monitored to ensure Canada meets the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System’s broadcast standards, responding to issues as they arise.

EC’s new satellite receiving station installed in Resolute Bay, Nunavut

A new Environment Canada satellite reception and processing station was installed in Resolute Bay, NU (74.6°N, 94.8°W). It successfully captured its first image on July 18, 2010. The station tracks and receives near-hourly data directly from polar-orbiting meteorological satellites operated by the United States, Europe and China.

This new station, complemented by upgraded telecommunications systems, has greatly enhanced the accessibility and the utility of the data to forecasters. Data from this station will enhance access to satellite images to support the delivery of weather and ice information to mariners in the newly-defined Arctic marine areas for which Canada has assumed responsibility.

With this station in the Arctic, Environment Canada's satellite reception network enhances operational coverage of Canadian territory and surrounding waters, with images covering the far North now received almost hourly instead of daily. Environment Canada's other reception stations for polar orbiting satellites are located in Edmonton (Alta.) and Gander (N.L.). Capital funds for this station were provided by the Canadian International Polar Year (IPY) Program, and it will remain as a post-IPY legacy system for improved observations of the Arctic. 

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