Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Fisheries and Oceans
Issue 6 - Evidence - October 26, 2010
OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 5:10
p.m. to examine issues relating to the federal government's current and evolving
policy framework for managing Canada's fisheries and oceans (Topic: Canadian
Senator Dennis Glen Patterson (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.
I call the meeting to order. Good evening and welcome to the Standing Senate
Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Dennis Patterson, from Nunavut
Territory, and I am Deputy Chair of the committee. Before I introduce the
witnesses, I invite members of the committee to introduce themselves.
Senator Hubley: I am Senator Elizabeth Hubley, from Prince Edward
Senator Losier-Cool: Good evening. I am Senator Rose-Marie
Losier-Cool, from New-Brunswick.
Senator MacDonald: I am Senator Michael MacDonald, from Nova Scotia.
Senator Cochrane: I am Senator Ethel Cochrane, from Newfoundland and
Senator Raine: I am Senator Nancy Greene Raine, from British Columbia.
Senator Poirier: I am Senator Rose-May Poirier, from New Brunswick.
Senator Nancy Ruth: I am Senator Nancy Ruth, from the great Georgian
Bay, Ontario, who listens to your weather reports almost every day for two
months of the year.
The Deputy Chair: I want to mention to committee members that we will
have a brief in camera meeting after the public meeting to discuss our plans to
travel in November plus one other item.
As part of our study on Canadian lighthouses, I am pleased to welcome
officials from Environment Canada — Dave Wartman, Director, Atmospheric
Monitoring, Meteorological Service of Canada, and Michael Crowe, Director,
Strategic Integration Division, Meteorological Service of Canada.
The committee thanks you for accepting the invitation to appear and looks
forward to hearing from you in relation to lighthouses. Mr. Wartman, please
proceed with your introductory remarks, after which we will have questions from
Dave Wartman, Director, Atmospheric Monitoring, Meteorological Service of
Canada, Environment Canada: I thank the committee for the opportunity to
provide a few opening remarks on staffed lighthouses and weather reporting. I
believe you have the presentation deck that was distributed. I will speak to
that through my opening remarks.
On the second slide, I will say a few quick words on the mandate of
Environment Canada. The mandate includes the responsibility for meteorology in
Canada. The primary role of the Meteorological Service is to alert Canadians to
threatening weather situations, everything from tornadoes, to snowstorms, to
gale force winds in marine areas, to hurricanes on the East Coast. To do this,
we carry out and lead science and weather monitoring activities. We also
forecast the weather on different time scales ranging from minutes, to days, to
months from the time scales of tornadoes, to snowstorms, to seasonal forecasts.
We also provide products and services such as weather observations as well as
forecasts and warnings for different communities of interest — marine, public,
air quality, and others as well. In Canada, Environment Canada does not have the
exclusive mandate pertaining to meteorology. Other agencies and federal
departments also have legislated responsibilities. As an example, NAV CANADA has
a responsibility for civil aviation weather services in Canada; Transport Canada
is the regulator under the Aeronautics Act; and the Department of National
Defence has the responsibility for military aviation weather services.
On slide 3, I will talk a little bit about weather observations and
forecasts. Environment Canada operates and collaborates on the operation of a
number of key observation networks. These networks are the central foundation or
the backbone for Canada's national meteorological monitoring networks. These
core networks include hourly weather observations from about 600 automated
weather stations across the country. We have about 77 buoys, 54 automated ship
observations and over 230 airport observations, which are provided by NAV
CANADA; as well satellite imagery and radar networks. We use these as the basis
for preparing our weather forecasts and warnings. These core networks are
The forecasts and warnings are derived from computer models that use these
observations as the basis. The meteorologist in the storm prediction centre
looks at the observations and at satellite and radar imagery, and with heavy
reliance on the computer models arrives at the weather forecast and warnings. In
addition to these core observations, Environment Canada also makes use of
hundreds of other pieces of weather data that come from a variety of sources —
provincial agencies, industry, farmers and mariners. The meteorologist includes
these other pieces of weather data and the weather observations provided by
Moving to the next slide, the hourly automated weather stations form part of
the core weather observation network. These have been around for about 15 to 20
years and have evolved. We have developed confidence in their use and
reliability. These automated weather station observations are essential for us
to provide forecasts and warnings.
The lighthouse keeper weather reports, when they are available, give marine
weather forecasters additional information. They are not essential for producing
weather forecasts and warnings. I am not saying that these supplementary weather
observations do not have value because they certainly have value to us. As an
example, in conjunction with other data, they can help to ground truth the
weather forecast for the predictions and can even prompt the weather forecaster
to amend a forecast. This value has some limitations. These weather observations
from lighthouse keepers are supplemental and are not core for a couple of
reasons. First, they are not equipped with full instrumentation. For example, on
the Pacific coast, about one-third or more of the staffed lighthouses estimate
the wind speed and direction. It is not the same precision and is not the same
frequency. Weather observations from lighthouse stations are provided every
three hours, during daytime hours only, whereas information and data from our
automated weather stations and other parts of our observation network are 24
hours a day, seven days a week and on an hourly basis.
The next slide shows what the lighthouse keeper supplementary weather reports
include. I mention that only the lighthouse keepers in B.C. provide these
weather observations to Environment Canada. There are 27 of them in the province
of B.C. Once every three hours during daytime hours, they provide wind speed and
direction, sky condition, visibility, precipitation type and the sea state.
Of these 27 staffed light stations, 17 also provide supplementary weather
information for aviation purposes to NAV CANADA. This information is for float
plane and helicopter operators. The information consists of temperature, dew-
point temperature, which is a measure of humidity, and an estimated low-cloud
height and amount.
Of the 27 staffed light stations in B.C., two provide core weather
observations every six hours that are distributed globally and shared
As well, of the 27 staffed light stations, 23 of them provide temperature and
precipitation observations twice a day, and this is for climate purposes. These
23 light stations are part of the Canadian cooperative climate network. There
are about 650 locations across the country where similar observations of
temperature and precipitation are being taken twice per day.
The next slide is an annex showing a couple of maps under the theme that a
picture is worth a thousand words. The first map is labelled marine and aviation
weather monitoring, B.C. south coast. I am sure you recognize the geography here
with Vancouver Island. The triangles basically are all Coast Guard-related
weather observations. The green triangles are those 27 staffed light stations
where the lightkeepers provide weather reports. The black triangles, which are
in many cases embedded in the green triangle, are the 17 stations that provide
the aviation weather. The blue triangles are five Canadian Coast Guard automated
The red squares show that portion of the buoy network. You can see they are
all over water. The circles are the Environment Canada and NAV CANADA automatic
weather stations. The red ones will be Environment Canada. I guess I am colour
blind. It looks like it is green or blue but, in any event, the other circle
shows NAV CANADA automatic and manned weather stations.
The next slide shows the same depiction and the same legend for the north
coast of B.C. As an example, you can see a buoy off the south coast of the Queen
Charlotte Islands. As well, there is an automated weather station at Cape St.
James on the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands. You can see some of
the green triangles off the north coast of the Queen Charlottes. That is Langara
Island, one of the Canadian Coast Guard lighthouse stations where the
lightkeeper provides a weather operation. Also at that spot you see the red
circle, we have a collocated automated weather observation station.
I hope that this deck helps provide some additional information, and that
concludes my opening remarks, Mr. Chair.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Wartman. You used the term "ground
truth." I had not heard that before. Would you explain what that means, please?
Mr. Wartman: A forecast is a forecast. If we are forecasting a
snowfall here in Ottawa and the weather observation says rain, it is a way of
verifying the forecast or ground truthing it or validating it.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you. I would like to welcome Senator Manning
from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Why are you just in B.C. and not on the Atlantic
Mr. Wartman: On the Atlantic coast, there are no staffed light
stations that provide weather observations to Environment Canada.
Senator Nancy Ruth: How long has that been for? Has it been 10 years
or 15 years?
Mr. Wartman: It has been a while, senator. I do not know exactly, but
it has been quite some time, I believe. We could confirm the period of time.
Senator Nancy Ruth: As far as you know, since you have been automated
on the East Coast, has it been okay? Have there been a lot of complaints from
mariners or air people? Are they getting along fine with the automated stuff?
Mr. Wartman: I can only speak for myself. I have not heard any number
of complaints from mariners or aviators. We can find out if there have been. I
am not aware of any.
The Deputy Chair: While the senator is formulating her next question,
there are staffed light stations in Newfoundland and Labrador. You are saying
that you are not getting weather observations, for some reason, from those
staffed light stations on the East Coast. Is that correct?
Mr. Wartman: That is correct. We are not getting weather observations
from the staffed light stations on the East Coast or elsewhere in the country.
Senator Nancy Ruth: If you did not have the 17, or whatever numbers
you have here, the 27 or the 2 that do various kinds of reports, what difference
would it make to you?
Mr. Wartman: What difference would it make?
Senator Nancy Ruth: How would you account for the difference, and how
would you implement other strategies to get whatever information they are giving
you if you did not have them?
Mr. Wartman: These are not essential to produce the forecasts and the
warnings. Do they have value? Yes. We get hundreds of pieces of supplemental
weather data from a number of sources every day. If we did not have the weather
observations from the staffed light stations on the West Coast, we would
certainly look at our network and see where the gaps were and what the needs
were, but they would not seriously impact our ability to provide weather
Senator Nancy Ruth: Nor would it seriously impact your ability to get
that data if it came through an automated source? Can I infer that?
Mr. Wartman: I am not sure I understand the question.
Senator Nancy Ruth: The lighthouses are not providing critical data to
your formation. They are not essential. However, you get hundreds of pieces of
data from a variety of places. If the data coming from the lighthouses was not
available through phones or emails or however they do it electronically, do you
feel confident you could supplement your system in an automated way that would
bring the same data?
Mr. Wartman: Yes. If we did not have the staffed light stations, we
would look at the gaps, and we would certainly look at what the needs were and
would consider automated weather stations. We have a lot of confidence in them,
and they have proven to be reliable.
Senator Nancy Ruth: My understanding is that some of the lightkeepers
get a fee. They are paid by Environment Canada. There is some relationship
between the fisheries department and Environment Canada, or a contract between
the two departments to provide these services from the lightkeepers. Can you
tell us the financial amount of money in that contract?
Mr. Wartman: I believe that is in the collective agreement for the
lightkeepers. I think that is where it comes from. We do not pay the
lightkeepers for the climate observations. The Coast Guard would pay the
lightkeepers for the other observations and, up until a few years ago, we were
reimbursing the Coast Guard but not for the last year or two.
Senator Nancy Ruth: Could you tell me how much those reimbursements
Michael Crowe, Director, Strategic Integration Division, Meteorological
Service of Canada, Environment Canada: I want to say $200 per site, adding
up to about $5,000 a year. It was very nominal.
The Deputy Chair: To perhaps quickly finish a question I had asked,
you do not have weather observations in staffed lighthouses on the East Coast.
Can you explain why it would be that you would have weather observations on the
West Coast with staffed light stations but not on the East Coast? How did that
Mr. Crowe: I might characterize it as almost being historical, which
is why perhaps I am not exactly sure of what I am saying. In a large part, on
the West Coast in particular, I think it was the aviation community that,
through NAV CANADA's processes for determining where weather observations are
needed, identified these as being needed. On the East Coast, it turned out just
not to be so. I am a little nervous saying that, and I will be happy to follow
up with that historical context. I would point to aviation as being a key reason
we are still on the West Coast and not so much on the East Coast.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Crowe. We are planning to hear from
NAV CANADA at some point, so maybe that can be clarified.
Senator Losier-Cool: I would like to know what kind of training the
lightkeepers must have, the difference between the skills required for
lightkeepers and for meteorologists. What skills are required from a
Mr. Wartman: I cannot tell you what is required to become a
lightkeeper. I can tell you what kind of training the lightkeepers are given for
weather observations. They are given a course that is a day or so in length. We
offer one course per year, which the Coast Guard sends their lightkeepers on.
The course trains them to take weather observations and to use the
instrumentation that is there. Meteorologists in our storm prediction centres
have university degrees and a one-year course given by Environment Canada. With
regard to observations and forecasts, the lightkeepers and meteorologists are
very different in terms of training.
Senator Losier-Cool: So if a position of lightkeeper must be filled,
what are the requirements?
Mr. Wartman: The lightkeepers are hired and they are employees of the
Canadian Coast Guard, so they do not work for Environment Canada. I do not know
exactly what qualifications they require.
Mr. Crowe: In terms of the training required, many of the 230 airport
stations are staffed stations. The requirements for training for aviation
observations are, I would say, quite a bit more stringent than the one day that
the lightkeepers get for the basic supplemental observations that they do.
Senator Poy: Thank you very much for your presentation. You say the
weather information is supplementary and that you do not really depend on the
lightkeepers. Would you say, then, that they are not really necessary?
Mr. Wartman: I would say they are not essential. I guess that means as
well that they are not absolutely necessary for us to deliver the forecast and
Senator Poy: Yet, the lighthouse keepers, you say, get $200 per site.
I do not know what that means. Does that mean each time the person gives a
Mr. Crowe: This was an annual amount, per year.
Senator Poy: I was wondering whether it was every three hours.
Mr. Wartman: No. It is a nominal amount.
Senator Poy: I needed to understand that.
If they wish to do this, they get $200 annually. It is entirely up to them
and they take a one-day course from your department. I do not know how much a
person can learn in one day to be able to forecast the weather entirely.
If the lightkeepers are not necessary, obviously you do not need them on the
Atlantic coast, so they are really not necessary. Would that be your conclusion?
Mr. Wartman: Yes. They are not essential. They are not absolutely
necessary. To be clear, I am not saying they do not have value. They do have
Senator Poy: I understand.
Mr. Wartman: We use all kinds of different pieces of weather
information. Let me put it this way. If tomorrow we did not receive any
supplemental weather observations from lighthouse keepers, it would not
significantly impact our ability to provide weather forecast warnings.
Senator Poy: Historically, you never had the lighthouse keepers doing
that on the Atlantic side — am I correct?
Mr. Wartman: Not in recent years. There is a lot of history and legacy
to this. I am not totally familiar with the history on the East Coast and how
far back it goes or if, in fact, there were staffed light stations that provided
Mr. Crowe: I am not sure myself. It has been a long time, if there
were. Both of us are meteorologists who used to sit at a desk and do weather
forecasts. It almost hurts to say we do not need observations because any data
is good and helpful. The essential core is really what is needed by our
Senator Poy: The thing is that they only do that during the daytime,
but you need the reports 24 hours a day to be accurate?
Mr. Wartman: That is correct. The other aspect of it is to have the
reports on an hourly basis, so every hour as opposed to every three hours. This
is where we rely upon the automated weather stations — also for marine purposes,
the 16 buoys on the West Coast, and automated ship observations on 54 ships
across the country, about 13 of them on the West Coast, many of them Coast
Guard, where we have full weather instrumentation. The advantage of that is that
the ships are moving, so we get weather observations from different parts of the
Senator Poy: These are in existence on the Atlantic side, am I
Mr. Wartman: The buoys and the ships, yes.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for your presentation.
From the different groups we have met with leading up to where we are
tonight, one of the things we have heard is that the coast of B.C. is unique and
there are some very remote areas. Some believe that the lighthouses need to be
staffed. They say we need that to ensure that our mariners have the updated
weather they need, and at the speed they need it, for security and safety
If the lighthouses would be the responsibility of Environment Canada instead
of DFO, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, would you proceed with de-staffing
these lighthouses and getting rid of them or would you feel it is essential to
Mr. Wartman: I am not sure I feel equipped to answer that, to be
honest. I can tell you that, at four of the staffed light station locations
where we get weather observations on the Pacific coast, we have put in automated
weather stations because we have established those locations as core. We have
automated weather stations and the staffed light stations. We put a priority on
those because they are in key locations.
I cannot answer the question of whether, if the light stations were reporting
through Environment Canada, we would de-staff or not de-staff. It would not be
my decision to make.
Senator Poirier: My second question would be this: If tomorrow morning
all staffed lighthouses were to disappear, do you feel mariners would get the
same level of weather forecasts for their safety and security that they are
getting today, when there are staffed lighthouses along the B.C. coast?
Mr. Crowe: I think so with the caveat Mr. Wartman has already
mentioned that, if that happened, we would certainly re-evaluate. I think you
mentioned that, if there were gaps, we would want to fill them.
Senator Poirier: With an automated system?
Mr. Crowe: Yes.
Mr. Wartman: We are looking at our overall monitoring networks in
Canada now, the meteorological monitoring networks, with a view to determine
beyond what I have already identified as being core and what is supplemental or
what is coming from other agencies. We are looking at how to bring in even more
of this supplemental information and integrate it, not depending upon it but
just making it accessible. As Mr. Crowe said, we would re-evaluate, look at
where the gaps are and what the needs are, and then decisions would be made
based upon that.
Senator Poirier: All of these automated sites that provide weather
forecasts would continue to provide the weather forecasts only. Even though they
are in remote areas, they would not provide access for someone in distress to
receive help. For example, if a lighthouse in a remote area is staffed and
someone makes a distress call in the area, they would have help close at hand.
However, that would not happen if all the lighthouses were automated. Is that
what you are saying?
Mr. Wartman: With automated weather stations, there is no human
presence. We are looking at it in terms of the weather only. For other needs,
other agencies would have to look at it.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator Cochrane: The Coast Guard advised the committee that it is
working with Environment Canada and NAV CANADA to ensure that solutions are
implemented prior to de-staffing the lighthouses involved in providing automated
When did the Coast Guard first approach Environment Canada with its proposal
to remove lightkeepers from staffed lighthouses?
Mr. Wartman: I believe that the de-staffing of the light stations goes
back to the time when the issue first arose many years ago. It was before my
time. I do not know when the regional meetings occurred. It went back about 10
or 15 years.
Senator MacDonald: It was longer than that.
Mr. Crowe: Certainly, I remember the last round, which was about 10
years ago; it might have started before that.
Mr. Wartman: Our folks at the meteorological service of Canada in B.C.
work on a daily basis with the Coast Guard on a variety of issues, and this is
one of them.
Senator Cochrane: There are lightkeepers in certain areas of the
country that are particularly dangerous in terms of weather, et cetera. In
British Columbia, the lightkeepers are present at all times. They detect when
someone is in trouble on those waters. Can the Coast Guard get to these people
as quickly as the lightkeepers are able to do?
Mr. Wartman: I cannot speak for the Coast Guard, and I am not sure
whether lightkeepers actually get to the people, so I am not sure how to answer
that question. I am not trying to avoid the question, but I do not know the
answer because that is a matter for the Coast Guard.
Mr. Crowe: We can imagine instances where a lightkeeper would be able
to reach someone but what happens after that if they are not there, I do not
really know; perhaps Coast Guard operations might know.
Senator Cochrane: How reliable are these automated weather stations?
Mr. Wartman: We have seen an improvement in their reliability
throughout the 10 or 15 years that they have been around. Reliability for wind
speed and direction from automated weather stations on the Pacific coast are
available 95 per cent-plus of the time. The reliability of these automated
weather stations is 95 per cent-plus that they are available and used.
We visit these stations once a year to inspect, and we do unscheduled visits
for repairs. We have found over the years that the need for repairs is
decreasing. We consider 95 per cent-plus to be a pretty reliable number.
Senator Cochrane: Do you have any idea how often there is an outage of
Mr. Wartman: The lights or the data?
Senator Cochrane: Yes, the data.
Mr. Wartman: The weather data are available 95 per cent or more of the
time. Yes, we have outages with our buoys as well, and we try to fix them pretty
Senator Cochrane: What is "pretty quickly?"
Mr. Wartman: The standard for a wind outage, depending on the level of
response because certain stations have more critical value, could be a couple of
days. It always depends on the remoteness and upon the weather, which can be a
detriment to trying to fix them.
Senator Cochrane: Are repair people flown in by helicopter?
Mr. Wartman: We access most of the sites in British Columbia by
The Deputy Chair: To follow up on Senator Cochrane's question, you do
the maintenance of the weather equipment? The Coast Guard does not do that?
Mr. Wartman: We visit the automated weather stations one to two times
per year. We visit the instrumentation and equipment at the staffed lighthouses
once per year to inspect and do the maintenance.
The Deputy Chair: Is Environment Canada currently working with the
Coast Guard and DFO to ensure that there are viable solutions in the case of
de-staffing? Are there such discussions?
Mr. Wartman: Yes, those conversations are happening.
Senator Hubley: What is the trend within the fishing or the shipping
community? The fishing community traditionally would have relied on a lighthouse
and its keeper for information pertaining to the weather and any situation that
they should be aware of. Has that changed dramatically?
Mr. Wartman: The dependence of fisheries for —
Senator Hubley: — for the fishing community to speak to rather than
receive reports through radio systems.
Mr. Wartman: Communications has come a long way over the last 20 to 25
years. The continuous marine broadcasts from the Coast Guard make the
communication of weather information and weather forecasts much easier and more
accessible. I cannot comment directly because I have not spoken to fisheries
vessels about whether the dependency is less. I would imagine, yes.
Senator Hubley: It was mentioned that the value of the weather reports
is limited and that they are supplementary to your core network. You mentioned
that the light stations are equipped with minimal instrumentation. Has this
instrumentation been in place for a while? Does it have any capability that
would make it important for the lighthouse to be able to report weather
Mr. Wartman: Things like an anemometer for reporting wind speed and
direction are key in terms of weather reports. For our purposes at MSC,
Meteorological Service of Canada, barometric pressure is also important. That is
why we have this instrumentation at core sites. One of the priorities has been
to ensure that our core observation network has full instrumentation so that we
measure rather than estimate some of these variables.
Senator Raine: I have many questions, so I hope you will be patient.
Could you describe what an automated weather station looks like physically?
How and where is it mounted? Is it mounted in a remote wilderness area or in an
Mr. Crowe: What do they look like? I would describe them as a compound
of instruments, depending on the terrain and location. They may be spread out a
bit, or they may be on a tower. They will include sensors to measure, to fairly
high standards, temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, air pressure,
precipitation occurrence and amounts. I think that is it.
Senator Raine: It is not one machine but a collection of machines with
a fence around them?
Mr. Crowe: Exactly, with a data logger, if you will, that they all
report into, which then telecommunicates out a consolidated weather report.
Mr. Wartman: I can add a few things to that. The siting of the
instruments, where they are, is important. For example, with an anemometer to
measure wind, you do not want it up against a building. You want to measure the
true wind speed. The site and how the different instruments are configured
together is a science in itself. We collaborate internationally on that to
determine the best configurations.
I will put in a plug for Environment Canada's website, weatheroffice.gc.ca.
You can go there and see pictures of the automated weather stations. In fact,
you can look at them at the lighthouse sites on the Pacific coast.
Senator Raine: That is the weather stations. They are, generally
speaking, on land. What does a buoy look like? How reliable are they? What
impacts on their ability to send you the information?
Mr. Wartman: The buoys are prone to rogue waves or high waves, which
can knock out the communications system. The buoy statistics for all of Canada
are about 90 per cent-plus. We see an outage or dip in terms of their
reliability in the mid- to late spring just after the winter, when we have more
of these storms. On the Atlantic coast, every hurricane knocks out one or two.
Their reliability is pretty good. Their instrumentation is very sophisticated.
We have now a total of 77 buoys across the country. That includes moored buoys,
West Coast and East Coast, some of the inland lakes, the Great Lakes, and some
Senator Raine: How much does an automated weather station cost, and
how much does a buoy cost?
Mr. Wartman: For the automated weather station, to buy the instruments
and cabling and that sort of thing costs about $50,000. To install it, it
depends upon where you install it and how remote the location is. It could be up
to $100,000 to install it because of where you have to stage from, and the
logistics of getting to some of these remote sites.
I do not have a number off the top of my head for a buoy, but I would say it
is in order of magnitude, at least, different, higher. It depends on what kind
of buoy, but we are into much larger amounts for buoys. I do not have an exact
amount to give you.
Senator Raine: Is it $200,000-plus?
Mr. Wartman: Plus.
Senator Raine: Is it $500,000?
Mr. Wartman: I do not have that information. We can get it quickly, if
you are interested.
Senator Raine: I noticed that between the north end of Vancouver
Island and all the way up north, there are three buoys and not a lot of
automated weather stations. There is a big section of the central coast where
most of the weather observations are coming from the lighthouse lightkeepers. I
also have information that tells me there are significant times when it says
there is no data on record for the buoys. Is all the data that comes in from the
Mr. Wartman: Yes, the data from the buoys is transmitted and recorded.
Senator Raine: I have no data recorded in South Hecate Strait from
March 19 to May 14, 2009. I have North Nomad, no data on record for all of April
2010. Almost every buoy has extensive outages. For West Moresby, there is no
data for January 19 to May 5, 2008. That is enough to give me concern. If we
lose the fixed link of the lighthouses, then we may be losing something that is
Would there be a strategy, for instance, to put automated weather stations in
for the existing light stations that are not giving you 24-7 automated weather,
knowing that they are a fixed location and they are there, there is a building,
there are helicopter landing pads, et cetera?
Mr. Wartman: In fact, in some of the light stations in B.C. that have
been automated, we have put automated weather stations in at those locations,
and we also put them collocated with those four staffed locations.
Senator Raine: That is what I am talking about.
Mr. Wartman: We look at the gaps and the needs and figure out the best
way to address it. Is it a possibility? Based upon an understanding of the gaps
and the needs, it is certainly something we would look at.
Senator Raine: In terms of forecasting, what is the difference between
getting hourly reports and reports once every three hours in the daytime in
terms of the validity of the data? How does it affect the quality of the
forecast? I know it is nice to have everything coming in on the hour.
Mr. Wartman: The weather along the British Columbia coast is a bit
like the weather in Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada in terms of how changeable
it is. A forecaster looks not just at that one observation but at a series of
observations from that same location. We look at trends, and at satellite
imagery and radar, which also comes in more frequently than hourly, and form a
conceptual picture of what is happening. The hourly aspect is important from a
forecasting point of view to understand the trends and how they link with the
other pieces of information.
Mr. Crowe: Picking up on where the technology is going, we have
mentioned satellites a couple of times. When I was sitting on a forecast desk,
we were just getting the hang of starting to receive satellite data and
understanding what it was and how to use it properly. The number of satellites
that are being put up there now and the different types of data that are
becoming available to forecasters is supplementing the picture that they have.
In particular, the Canadian RADARSAT is one that we are gaining access to and
developing ways to understand coastal winds from the RADARSAT imagery.
In our business, we are always looking for the new technological solutions
that are coming along. It takes a while to get the hang of them but, when you
do, they really help out. This is not true for RADARSAT but, for some of the
more conventional weather satellites, it is almost like a continual eye on what
is going on. That helps in the quality of forecasts.
Senator Raine: Certainly in terms of aviation, eyes and ears on the
ground can make a big difference. I do not believe that fog, for instance, can
be read with any degree of accuracy from automated weather stations. You can
predict the humidity would create a fog.
Mr. Crowe: For aviation purposes, there is a much more sophisticated
auto station that not only measures the parameters we talked about, which are
the core Environment Canada network, but the NAV CANADA automated stations also
report visibility, cloud heights and amounts, and those parameters are important
to aviation interests.
Senator Raine: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: I am curious. Can an automated system report on what
you called in your presentation the sea state, or how choppy it is? That is for
float planes. Can you read that?
Mr. Wartman: Automated weather stations do not report sea state. Buoys
do, and our automated volunteer ship program. Coast Guard ships also send in
manual observations in addition to the automated, and they will frequently
report wave heights for sea state. No, an automated weather station on land does
not report sea state.
Senator MacDonald: Thank you for being here today. I have a couple of
quick questions for clarification. In terms of the final responsibility, I am
assuming that Environment Canada has the final responsibility for collecting all
environmental data and disseminating it, correct?
Mr. Wartman: We have the mandate for meteorology.
Senator MacDonald: The Coast Guard stations that are automated provide
the information to Environment Canada, correct?
Mr. Wartman: Yes.
Senator MacDonald: I notice, looking at the map, that some of the
answers are fairly obvious. The inland stations are all Environment Canada. The
light stations that have an automatic weather station are under the purview of
the Coast Guard. You mentioned that once a year you maintain them?
Mr. Wartman: Yes.
Senator MacDonald: Why are they still under the purview of the Coast
Guard? Are they actually under the purview of the Coast Guard or do they just
happen to be there on those stations?
Mr. Wartman: They are on Coast Guard property.
Senator MacDonald: The final responsibility is still with Environment
Mr. Wartman: Environment Canada, except for those five Coast Guard
automated stations, has provided the weather equipment.
Senator MacDonald: I notice that Environment Canada has these moored
buoy networks around Vancouver Island. Could you explain them to us? How
complicated are they?
Mr. Wartman: They are moored. They are fixed to the ocean bottom. They
are two different sizes: three metres and six metres in diameter.
Senator MacDonald: Are they spar buoys?
Mr. Wartman: They are discus buoys.
Senator MacDonald: We call a spar buoy a narrow, oblong buoy.
Mr. Crowe: By "spar," do you mean with sort of a superstructure on
Senator MacDonald: Yes.
Mr. Crowe: I think the large ones are.
Mr. Wartman: The six-metre ones would be.
Senator MacDonald: What sort of data do they collect that the other
stations, the automated stations, would not collect?
Mr. Wartman: It is not so much the different data but the location.
The wind speed and direction over water can be very different from the wind
speed and direction over land. As Senator Patterson asked, they also have sea
state information, which the land stations do not. It is pressure, temperature,
humidity, wave height, wind speed and direction.
Senator MacDonald: The Coast Guard would put them back in place if
they are moved?
Mr. Wartman: Yes. We work with the Coast Guard and rely upon the Coast
Guard for the deployment of the buoys and to get out to them. For a
six-metre-diameter buoy, you need a certain size ship to take it on board the
ship, do the maintenance on it, and put it back in the water, generally.
Senator MacDonald: Who budgets for them? Environment Canada?
Mr. Wartman: It is both. We rely upon collaboration with the Coast
Senator MacDonald: Who would pay for the equipment and put it out
Mr. Wartman: The equipment is Environment Canada.
Senator MacDonald: Those are all questions I have. I was just curious
about the relative responsibilities there.
Senator Raine: If there is no data coming in from a buoy, you would
know right away that something is wrong?
Mr. Wartman: Yes.
Senator Raine: Why would it take so long to have the data collected,
for instance, March 19 to May 14? Would it be a stormy period?
Mr. Wartman: That is typically the period when we see the outages, at
the end of the winter season. We need a Coast Guard ship to get out to the buoy.
We need a certain size of Coast Guard ship depending upon what kind of buoy it
is. We may need to get the parts. All we know is that it is out, so we may go
out once and discover that we need something that we do not have, or that we
need to get in from the supplier, which is AXYS Technologies on the West Coast.
Sometimes it takes a little while with the buoys, just because they are so hard
to get to and because you need a certain size of ship.
Mr. Crowe: There is the aspect of the Coast Guard helping us in terms
of deploying the buoys and helping us service them, but they may not always be
able to get out there the day it goes out. We are somewhat reliant on their
schedules to get out to the buoy.
Senator Raine: In the automated weather stations, do you have a
similar problem with damage from a storm or ice, where you lose data?
Mr. Wartman: Do we have outages? Yes. They are not perfect. In general
terms, we are able to get to them a lot quicker to repair the outages. We have
to go by helicopter, largely, but it is still much more accessible than trying
to get a Coast Guard ship and the crew and taking it out into Hecate Strait or
off the Queen Charlotte Islands or wherever.
Senator Raine: The North, South and Middle Nomad are a long way
offshore, are they not?
Mr. Wartman: I do not know the distance.
Senator Raine: They are off the map; I know that.
Mr. Wartman: The other thing I would add is that we also have drifter
boats. We put them in the water and they drift across the Pacific and give
information from where they are. There is an outer string of buoys on the West
Coast because, of course, there is nothing upstream in terms of land. There is
always the issue with the West Coast. You want those ground-truthing
observations from the middle of the Pacific, or at least partway out into the
Pacific. They must be 300 or 400 miles, or more.
Mr. Crowe: Yes.
The Deputy Chair: I believe that Environment Canada carries out
research, in addition to your meteorological work, in areas like climate change.
We learned in previous testimony that a number of lightkeepers over time had
informally taken on provision of services in addition to their normal duties,
which were said to include, among other things, support for scientific programs,
water sampling, temperature and salinity, greenhouse gas, tsunami gauge
monitoring, and marine mammal observations. Besides weather, are you aware of
any other monitoring that lightkeepers do for Environment Canada?
Mr. Wartman: As I mentioned, as part of the Canadian cooperative
climate network, they do temperature and precipitation but that is
meteorological. I do not know the other work they do in support of Environment
Canada. We can find out for you if you wish, but I do not have that information.
The Deputy Chair: We would be grateful if you could provide us with
any information about that. You also offered to give us information about the
cost of buoys, I believe.
Mr. Wartman: Yes.
The Deputy Chair: That would also be appreciated.
Senator Cochrane: If we were to shut down these lighthouses, what
would it mean to the Coast Guard and Environment Canada in regard to their
Mr. Wartman: I cannot speak for the Coast Guard. In terms of
Environment Canada, we looked at what the gaps would be and what we would need
to do, if anything, to fill those gaps, if the staffed light stations were
automated and there were no more weather reports. What we do now is visit each
of the 27 sites once per year. I would suggest that it is not a significant
Mr. Crowe: I would agree with that.
Mr. Wartman: What we do with those is just the one visit per year,
plus there might be a few unscheduled visits for maintenance.
The Deputy Chair: If there are no further questions, I would like to
thank both Mr. Wartman and Mr. Crowe for your helpful answers and your offer to
provide further information.
With that, I will call this meeting to a close. We will take a short break
and we will go in camera.