A real-time weather alerts service for Canada is finally here! Updated every 15 minutes, this interactive service can be added to your app to provide the latest weather conditions.
Over the past year, I had the opportunity to collaborate with two scientists from the Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), a division of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) to develop a real-time weather alerts service for Canada. The service, now available in the Living Atlas in both English and French, was created by parsing alerts information from a common alerting protocol (CAP) xml format and publishing as a feature service every 15 minutes.
Winter storm alerts in February 2023 across Canada
We believe this alerts service is not only more accessible to the public but also helps our stakeholders in other government agencies access the information more readily– Judy Kwan, Manager of Applied Climatology Services (West Coast) & Cindy Yu, Manager of Dissemination Systems for Prediction Services.
What are weather alerts?
Weather alerts are issued by the MSC to notify residents in affected areas or zones to take protective action against alarming weather conditions.
Why was the service created?
Although the MSC provides an excellent collection of datasets through their open data platform known as GeoMet, the weather alerts are provided as a Web Map Service (WMS), which behaves like a static map and makes it difficult to perform queries and analysis on the alerts. As a result, a feature service was developed to make the alerts dataset more interactive for users and enable tasks such as filtering, symbolizing, and modifying the pop-ups.
What can you do with the service?
- Use it in a web map or app to monitor weather events
- Filter the layer to display specific alerts from your area of interest
- Perform advanced analysis by combining other layers such as demographics or species habitats using ArcGIS Online or ArcGIS Pro tools
What is the workflow to produce the service?
With the MSC’s collaboration in releasing the weather alerts service in the Living Atlas, I asked Cindy, Manager of Dissemination Systems for Prediction Services and Judy, Manager of Applied Climatology Services (West Coast) some questions regarding their roles and the MSC’s plans of data dissemination in the future:
What do your roles at MSC involve?
Cindy: My department is responsible for the MSC’s dissemination channels such as the weather website, the automated telephone system, the weather radio network and the app.
Judy: My department provides climate services, expert support for climatology, climate analysis and product/tools development.
What other types of weather/climate data can you envision being added to the Living Atlas?
We see other useful products on this platform such as observation, hurricane track map and thunderstorm outlooks. We also have a few large projects at the moment where we aim to amplify the products through channels such as ArcGIS Living Atlas – Cindy. In addition, the Daily Climate Records (Long Term Climate Extremes), particularly temperature records being broken is something the public is always interested in – Judy.
What’s next for the MSC?
The MSC is working towards bringing more GeoJson data to the public. We recently did a re-design of the public alerts website by introducing an interactive web map component. We are also working towards making the thunderstorm outlook alerts available in GeoJson in the near future – Cindy.
The MSC’s Applied Climatology department is working on publishing monthly climate bulletins, which is a weather/climate summary product for the public and to support our partners. It is less data centric and more story driven. It will provide a situational awareness about recent climate conditions. We are working on making these publications public in the near future. I envision public interest in this product, and some partners will potentially want the data, web service or feature layers from it – Judy.
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