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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

One Promise Kept. How Many to Go?

Although many Conservative election promises are still to be addressed, on January 9th the federal government finally delivered on at least one of several election promises made to Newfoundland and Labrador when the national weather office reopened in Gander.

Since its shut down, by the former Liberal government in July of 2004, residents of the province have been subjected to inaccurate forecasting from as far away as Halifax and Montreal. Horror stories have abounded over that time. Everything from unexpected blizzards to residents who called the out of province weather line, while looking out the window at upwards of 20 centimeters of snow, only to be told that their was no inclement weather even forecast in their area.

The Weather office was officially opened by Avalon M.P. Fabian Manning. During the last federal election Stephen Harper committed to reopening the office and to providing Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with weather forecasts that meet their needs and reflect the reality of the province's unique weather patterns. In a few weeks, the 1-900 user-pay phone consultation service for the province will also be operational at the Newfoundland and Labrador Weather Office, further helping increase the accuracy of reporting.

In addition to this great news a new polar-orbiting satellite reception station will soon be installed at the Gander office. It will be one of only two such stations across the country.

Accurate weather forecasting is especially critical for safety reasons in a coastal province like Newfoundland and Labrador. Much of the population of the province resides on an island or along the coastline of the frigid North Atlantic, an area that is subject to the impact of multiple ocean currents that cause havoc with weather conditions. This, combined with the reality that many people in the province either work at sea, in the out of doors or at the very least need to travel long distances for work or to access basic services such as health care or education and it is easy to see why a locally run, dedicated weather center is so important.

The return of the weather center may have been ordered by the federal government but it was local individuals who forced the issue by gathering over a hundred and twenty five thousand signatures on a petition. Thanks to those signatures and to the pending election at the time, the organizers managed to capture the signature of the then future Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Hat’s off to the fine folks who worked so hard on that campaign and who have made this day a reality. You make us all extremely proud.

33 comments:

WJM said...

Since its shut down, by the former Liberal government in July of 2004, residents of the province have been subjected to inaccurate forecasting

I would like to see a quantification of this. How accurate were the old Gander forecasts, compared to Halifax ones?

from as far away as Halifax and Montreal.

If Halifax is too far from Newfoundland to forecast the weather, then Gander is also too far from all but the southern extremity of Labrador to forecast the weather for Labrador. Gander is farther from most of Labrador, than Halifax is from Newfoundland.

Patriot said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Patriot said...

To WJM:

Unlike you, I live in Newfoundland and although I may not have taken the time out of my life to research the accuracy of forecasting over the past decade, I can tell you that I've lived through a number of incidents over the past few years that tell me without a doubt that the accuracy of forecasting went downhill after the office in Gander closed. A couple of which I noted in the commentary.

On the issue of Labrador being too far from Gander I agree. I won't say "you" specifically, since you are in Ottawa (or is it Toronto these days), but perhaps the folks that actually are living in Labrador would be better served getting their forecasting from Quebec instead. Maybe that's something you should push for.

Jay said...

I am a newfoundlander as well, only moved to Toronto 5 years ago. I have a background in environmental science which includes meteorolgy.

All weather forecasting is subject to error and with climate change occuring it will get even more unpredictable. Thats the nature of climate change. All weather forecasting is done through the use of satelite and other dataimages which are independent of where the station is located.

If it were about jobs then great.

If its for better forecasting, good luck on that one. It makes no difference.

Harper realizes this and only threw cash at it to buy votes in what he describes as a welfare ghetto and "a culture of defeat".

Hope you didn't buy into it too much.

Patriot said...

I usually don't bother to respond to most comments left on this site. Not that I don't appreciate everyone of them (and read most) but I much prefer to let the readers hash things out. That said,I'm feeling a little adventurous today so what the heck.

To Jay:

Thank-you for your comments. I appreciated them. While I agree with most of what you said, I do have to disagree with you on one key point.

First, on the agreement side of the equation:

You said: "All weather forecasting is subject to error and with climate change occuring it will get even more unpredictable." AGREE

You said: "If it were about jobs then great."

AGREE to some degree. I suspect the impedus for some supporters was the local jobs but I don't believe that was the only reason for the support. Consider that it was (I believe) less than 20 jobs, which might have been important to Gander but certainly not to the entire province and the 125,000 or so people who signed the petition (including myself).

You said: "Harper realizes this and only threw cash at it to buy votes in what he describes as a welfare ghetto and "a culture of defeat". Hope you didn't buy into it too much."

AGREE. Of course Harper doesn't care about NL, there aren't enough seats here to worry him very much and of course he was only trying to buy votes, nobody is stupid enough to believe otherwise. Regardless, the end result is what matters, not the motives of the PM.

Finally, here is where we disagree:

You said: "If its for better forecasting, good luck on that one. It makes no difference."

Sorry, but it does make a difference. Yes, satellites and radar images are used to predict weather and yes that can be done from anywere but that is no substitute, in some cases, for having boots on the ground.

There is a long standing tradition in many parts of the province where locals often contact the Gander weather center and share information about what was happening in their specific areas (note the 900 number identified in the article). This was then, and will be again according to a spokesman for the weather center, be taken into account when issuing weather announcements.

Compare that to the case last winter when the principle of a school in the Harbour Breton area called the weather line "upalong" to inquire about how much snow was on the way because he wanted to know if he should close the school. The first problem he ran into was finding someone, anyone in that office who even knew where Harbour Breton was. Once he did, after three different voices came on the line, he was told that there was no snow for his area for the next several days, to which the man replied, "I'm looking out my window righ now and we already have about 6 inches and it's still coming."

The environment Canada voice on the other end of the line simply re-iterated, "I'm sorry but there is no snow in your area."

Like I said, boots on the ground make a difference. Information is shared more easily, instant feedback from various sources can flow and even the folks in Gander can look out their window if nothing else. It is also good to have a crew of meteorologists modelling weather and forecasting with a focus on just the NL area rather than having their attention split between multiple provinces and geographical areas is it not?

NL-ExPatriate said...

Personally while I supported the Petition and even helped with the campaign. I always felt we would be better served with more doppler radars.

If you look at the doppler radars the radius they show is somewhere in the region of 400 km diametre but what that doesn't show is that the largest part of that coverage the outter 200 km is determined from extrapolation.

That is why the maritimes has 6 doppler radars and can forecats a bird crapping.

Where as NL only has 2 doppler radars one in Corner Brook and one in St John's. Now consider the rough terrain and different elemental effects on our weather like currents intersecting weather systems and you can see why weather prediction is so hard to predict in NL. That doesn't even take into account some of the micro climates in and around NL due to terrain.

Then there is the whole labrador and apart of the northern peninsula which isn't even covered by the extrapolation of the outter 200 km of the two dopplers we do have.

There is a doppler at HVGB but it isn't available to the public.

NL needs more doppler radars.

Cudos to any and all who stood up for NL on this one.

Anonymous said...

I am only a student of meteorology in right now but we were all told that the Gander office wouldn't be any more accurate than Halifax was. It's all done by radar and satellite now.

I guess NL'ers just want to hear the weather from other NL'ers or they won't believe it.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any "hats off" to Steven Harper.

WJM said...

Unlike you, I live in Newfoundland and although I may not have taken the time out of my life to research the accuracy of forecasting over the past decade, I can tell you that I've lived through a number of incidents

"Incidents" aren't impartial.

"Incidents", where the actual weather differs substantially from the forecast, happen everywhere, no matter where the forecast is issued. "Incidents" no doubt happen with the US military, for example, which issues forecasts for the use of all branches of the forces, on every ocean and continent, out of an office in Florida.

I'd like to see hard numbers — not a catalogue of incidents — on how accurate the old Gander forecast was, and how accurate the Halifax forecast was, not only for the inherent interest in comparing the two, but also to serve as baselines for measuring the accuracy of the new Gander forecast.

over the past few years that tell me without a doubt that the accuracy of forecasting went downhill after the office in Gander closed.

And listening to Bill Rowe today, anecdotally, he says the new forecast is spot on!

But the accuracy can be measured scientifically, with math, not anecdotes.

I'd like to see someone do it.

On the issue of Labrador being too far from Gander I agree. I won't say "you" specifically, since you are in Ottawa (or is it Toronto these days), but perhaps the folks that actually are living in Labrador would be better served getting their forecasting from Quebec instead.

Why from Quebec?

If Halifax is too far from Newfoundland to issue a forecast for Newfoundland, then anywhere that is that same distance from some place else must surely be too far away to forecast the weather for some place else, right?

The thing about the weather is that observation is dependent on location. Forecasting is not. The forecast for Newfoundland can be done out of Halifax as it can be from Gander, Florida, or Timbuktoo.

Similarly, Gander can issue a forecast for Cape Town or Kuala Lumpur just as it can for Cartwright or Kaipokak. Everyone has access to the same WMO data.

Again, I'd like to see hard numbers — not anecdotes — about the accuracy. I have no shortage of anecdotes about how miserably Gander used to forecast the weather in Labrador.

Perhaps it would be a job for the Harris Centre at MUN. They love statistics.

WJM said...

Sorry, but it does make a difference. Yes, satellites and radar images are used to predict weather and yes that can be done from anywere but that is no substitute, in some cases, for having boots on the ground.

What can boots do in Gander that they can't do in Halifax, Iqaluit, London, Moscow, Tokyo, Honolulu, or Ushuaia, given that anyone in any of those places can have access to all the same data and imagery that Gander has?

If Halifax was "too far" to forecast the weather for Newfoundland, then it means there have to be about 50 forecasting offices across the country... half of which would be required just to handle forecasting for the three territories.

And why Gander? Why not Stephenville or St. Anthony or Wabush or St. John's? What is unusual about Gander that makes it such a good place to forecast the weather? Gander, after all, is farther from Wabush, as the crow flies, than the former office in Halifax.

WJM said...

Then there is the whole labrador and apart of the northern peninsula which isn't even covered by the extrapolation of the outter 200 km of the two dopplers we do have.

Please learn how to use the word "apart". It really doesn't help any of your arguments.

NL-ExPatriate said...

At least I have arguements!

WJM said...

At least I have arguements!

As opposed to what, possessed by whom?

Jay said...

"Boots on the ground" in Gander is not going to help anyone in South Branch. You can't see the snow falling there from central Newfoundland. I understand why people would want it but we would be better served by investing the cash for gander in Doppler radars like nl-expatriate suggested. Technology not bodies.

Anonymous said...

Yeah real accurate forecasts coming out of Gander last night. Big storm coming! Where?????

Anonymous said...

This Country is scandalous. If everything coming from the Federal Government isn't in Nova Scotia or some other province, it isn't right with some people. That means Newfoundland and Labrador is not to be on the receiving end of any of the Federal jobs. Awful indeed.

WJM said...

This is the sort of thing that leads me to suggest we need an impartial, dispassionate, scientific assessment of the accuracy of the former Gander and Halifax forecasts:

Storm Peters Out
January 11, 2007


We could call it the storm that wasn't. The fact of the overnight snowfall was considerably less than the 20 to 25 cms forecast yesterday. Meteorologist Jason Shepperd at the Gander Weather Office indicated it was difficult to guage the track of the storm. He says about 10 to 15 centimetres fell on the Avalon for the most part, a little more in some areas. He says the storm tracked a little more east than expected. The gusting winds in the forecast also failed to materialize.

Anonymous said...

Jay, of course Harper put the weather office back in Gander for votes, thats what politicians do. Harper will also do whatever he can to curry favour with Quebec voters or Ontario voters and so on and on it goes. By the way, the former Liberal government pulled the weather office out of Gander and plunked it down in Helifax to begin with.

As one other poster suggested, we could use another doppler radar in the Labrador/Northern pen area to cover that area.

I would like to add another topic to this post if I may, and it has to do with customs personel on the west coast, specifically that more are needed to deal with flights bringing tourists into Deer Lake air terminal. Currently there are not enough to deal with two flights a week from the UK. The feds suggested that the aircraft land in St. John's to clear customs and then to continue on to Deer Lake, not good enough folks, simply not good enough. This is very important if the west coast is going to grow its tourist market.

Artfull dodger.

Anonymous said...

Why did the Feds take the Weather Office out of Gander two and half years ago, especially given the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador have very few Federal jobs compared to the rest of Canada. We do not have one Federal Regional Office, yet Nova Scotia has many and so do the rest of the provinces.

Also when are the Feds going to put the 650 Military Personnel into Goose Bay? After all the Feds promised that they would be doing so? Are we not vociferous enough?

Anonymous said...

To anon post # 19, I agree, we should be putting the feds feet to the fire on the Goose Bay file. Goose Bay would make a very good base considering it has the infastructure in place. The CF has bases in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with an extremely token presence in Newfoundland & Labrador, not good enough considering this province provides approximatly 10% of the forces.

Regards,
Artfull dodger

WJM said...

Why did the Feds take the Weather Office out of Gander two and half years ago, especially given the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador have very few Federal jobs compared to the rest of Canada.

"Compared to the rest of Canada", Newfoundland and Labrador has, for its population, MORE federal jobs... not fewer.

NL-ExPatriate said...

First of OTTAwally, I think I would put alot more faith in the Harris centre than you a pseudonom on the internet.

Secondly from all of the research I've done on this topic there seems to be alot of creative accounting and number crunching done by Ottawa on this one.

In order for a true number to be arrived at all federal jobs spin off jobs must be excluded from the equation. It is a prime example of what came first the Ontario Chicken or the Ontario Egg unless all and I mean all federal jobs. Beurucrats, politicians, military, R&D, Etc etc etc

http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/Federal_Presence_Report_FINAL_WEB.pdf

http://www.theindependent.ca/article.asp?AID=624&ATID=2

http://www.exec.gov.nl.ca/royalcomm/

http://www.theindependent.ca/pdf/Cost_benefit_methodology.pdf

http://nlfirst.ca/Discussion_Paper.pdf

http://www.vocm.com/news-info.asp?id=17739
Gander Expressing Concerning Over Federal Government Document
January 11, 2007

A document from Public Works and Government Services Canada has drawn the attention of Gander's finance committee. Summarizing the Payment in Lieu of Taxes paid across the country by Ottawa,the report says Newfoundland and Labrador receives three-and-a-half million dollars or less than one per cent of the total Canada-wide payouts. As well, there are approximately twenty six hundred eligible properties owned by the Department of National Defence in the country with payment averages of just over forty eight thousand dollars each. The town of Gander has close to one hundred and sixty properties averaging slightly more than twenty three hundred dollars each. Finance committee chair Zane Tucker says the report paints a clear picture of the inequities this province faces within the Canadian confederation.

WJM said...

First of OTTAwally, I think I would put alot more faith in the Harris centre than you a pseudonom on the internet.

Please, show us all where the Harris Centre ever said that NL has "very few Federal jobs compared to the rest of Canada".

Cite the exact page of their reports where they say this.

If you read the final report:

http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/HC_FP_FINAL.pdf

you will find, on page 17:

"The share of federal government employment in Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia is disproportionately lower than their respective shares of the national population. [...]

The remaining provinces, namely, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario and Manitoba, all have a greater share than they do of the national population."

WJM said...

As for The Newfoundland Weekly Separatist's "Cost-Benefit" study:

http://labradore.blogspot.com/2007/01/eppur-si-statistice.html

That's just one of many holes that could be picked in that "study".

Anonymous said...

There's more government jobs and union members in Newfoundland than anywhere else in caanda. It's enough to make you puke. And still you all whine and complain!

Anonymous said...

How come there is not one Federal Regional Office in Newfoundland and Labrador while Nova Scotia has many, New Brunswick has many and so do the other provinces. The only exceptions are Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island? One can go to the Federal Government site on the Internet and investigate that aspect.

Anonymous said...

OH MY GOD!!! You have a town there that all the firemen quit because they can't have beer?? New Leamington I believe.

Newfoundland is so pathetic!!! Too funny!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, that was Point Leamington.

"Beer crackdown forces new firehall exodus in N.L. town"-

Last Updated: Thursday, January 11, 2007 | 12:54 PM NT
CBC News

How embarrassing that is is being run in newspapers across North America. No wonder people think you are all touched in the head.
Limited gene pool I suppose.

Anonymous said...

"Yes" It was a crazy embarassing thing for a community to do. My family discussed that situation today and we all agreed.

But with all the crazy things that go across the news media wires every day, I would consider that small, say compared to say 55 women killed in Vancouver by man who cut up their bodies, refrigerated some parts, other parts most likely ended up eaten, some parts fed to the pigs. Also a woman who angered a man because of her slow driving, the crazy man went into into road rage, pulled the lady out of her car and beat her to death.That is the kind of events I read about at least once per month appearing in other parts of North America. Would you label that person as coming from a small gene pool. Would you please be consistent with your stereotyping.

Anonymous said...

Actually Patriot the title of this post isn't quite true.

The promise was to return the weather office completely.

To date the only thing returned is the land portion of the forecasting. The Sea and Air forecasting are yet to be delivered upon.

I believe the air forecasting is never expected to return.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of promise's kept, it appears that the conservatives are set to fix the fiscal imbalance. Apparantly the conservatives are expected to set the exemption at 50% on natural resources and not 100% as was promised by Harper. Promise made promise broken? Guess who the big winner in all this will be if Harper goes this route, it begins with a 'Q' and ends with a 'c. I shall wait with great anticipation as this unfolds to see if once again, Newfoundland & Labrador plays sloppy seconds to provinces such as quebec.

Regards,
Artfull Dodger

WJM said...

Speaking of promise's kept, it appears that the conservatives are set to fix the fiscal imbalance.

Define "fiscal imbalance".

Thank you.

Undercover Newfie said...

I’m a Newfoundlander living in Ontario for six years now; don’t blame the rest of Canada for their negative views of our province. Their opinions a based on pure ignorance, most of these people have never visited the island and come from environments where teen pregnancy and dropping out of school are common. They know nothing about our province or its people. Respect for your fellow man drops off significantly the further west you travel. Mainland Canadians view Newfoundlanders in the same light that Americans view Canadians.
Don’t try to understand their point of view because you can’t, you were not raised in a province where prejudice and ignorance towards others is a part of everyday life, these people are basing their opinion on a fifty year old stereotype, they know no more about Newfoundland than what they know about their immigrant Asian co worker at their sad factory job. And like that Asian co worker, newfies are also beneath them.