Not all meteorologists who work for the Meteorological Service of Canada (the weather branch of Environment Canada) are weather forecasters. Many of them work in other areas of science, such as climate change research and pollution monitoring. Because we're touring the weather office, though, we'll just look at the job of weather forecasters.

forecaster at work in Montreal, QC

Twenty-four hours a day, meteorologists in our Storm Prediction Centres analyze weather information from different sources, including observations from all over North America, satellite pictures, and radar loops. Most of the time, they work with electronic data at computerized workstations. Specialized software helps them manipulate large quantities of information very quickly.

forecaster analyzing a map in the Atlantic Storm Prediction Centre

They also look at guidance from our super-computer in Montreal. It has been programmed with all the laws of physics that control the atmosphere's behaviour. It digests weather data from all of our networks and then predicts how weather systems will move and develop in a series of 12-hour "snapshots". These "snapshots" are called numerical weather predictions and they provide valuable guidance for forecasters.

Once the forecaster has determined how the weather is likely to evolve, different forecast products have to be issued according to a strict timetable, so that people get the information they need--when they need it--to plan their activities. A forecaster's first priority, though, is to warn the public when potentially dangerous weather is approaching.

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