I have normally put this in the newsletter itself but from this year onward, I have decided to have the yearly message from Geoff Coulson, as a standalone article. I have more to say about this in the next issue of the newsletter but now, here is Geoff.

Hello everyone, Geoff Coulson here again from Environment and Climate Change Canada. It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone but here we are in 2018. I’m a warning preparedness meteorologist based out of Toronto and I also manage the CANWARN storm spotter program in the province of Ontario. CANWARN members are volunteers from all walks of life. Amateur radio operators comprise the core of the CANWARN program with other volunteers coming from all levels of government, emergency managers/responders and those with a passion for the weather.

CANWARN volunteers watch the skies year-round for telltale signs of severe storms and relay significant information, in real-time, to the Storm Prediction Centre in Toronto. In the winter-time this can include reports of significant snowfall amounts, poor visibilities in fog or blowing snow and occurrences of freezing rain. In the spring and summer months, reports can be sent in on the appearance of funnel clouds or tornadoes or the occurrence of large hail, damaging winds or flooding rains. There are now over 7000 CANWARN volunteers in the province of Ontario and many of these volunteers have attended a training session in the last few years. CANWARN training sessions are held across the province in the April to June timeframe.  Training sessions are held during evenings and on weekends with the sessions lasting between 2 and 2.5 hours. There is no cost to attend a training session. The spring training schedule is normally released in early April.

The explosion of the use of social media, like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to report severe weather in recent years, have made some question the continuing importance of CANWARN. While the Weather Centre monitors social media closely, they are often required to do some checking before using social media reports. However, reports from identified CANWARN members are given more weight immediately. The forecasters realize that these reports are coming from people who understand the types of weather we want to hear about and they know they have received training in what to spot and report.

Many of you reading this newsletter that live in Ontario may already be a CANWARN member and, if so, I thank you for your participation. For those of you who aren’t a member but are interested in learning more about the program or who would like to be placed on the training notification distribution list, feel free to contact me at geoff.coulson@canada.ca