Canadian weather radar network

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Canadian weather radar network

The Canadian weather radar network consists of 31 weather radars spanning Canada's most populated regions. Their primary purpose is the early detection of precipitation, its motion and the threat it poses to life and property.

Each had until 2018 a range of 256 km (159 mi) in radius around the site to detect reflectivity, 3 angles with a range of 128 km (80 mi), for detecting velocity pattern (Doppler effect), and an extra long range at low elevation angle of 240 km (150 mi) but strongly folded for latter same purpose.

The renewal of the network, from 2018 to 2023, with new S-Band radars brings these numbers respectively to 300 km (190 mi) for reflectivity and 240 km (150 mi) for full Doppler coverage[1]. Furthermore, the new radars are dual-polarized which means precipitation type can be estimated directly.


Research in weather radars in Canada began at the end of the Second World War with "Project Stormy Weather".[2] After the war, J.S. Marshall continued at McGill University the work with the "Stormy Weather Group".[3] The Canadian network was thus gradually formed and by 1997, there were 19 weather radars of two kinds across the country: 18 five centimeter wavelength (C-Band) radars and 1 ten centimeter wavelength (S-Band) at McGill, all of the radars detected reflectivity and are equipped with Doppler capabilities.

Environment Canada received approval in 1998 to upgrade the network to Doppler standard and to add 12 more radars with the operational characteristics coming from King City weather radar station (CWKR), the research radar of Environment Canada.[4] However, McGill radar (at the J. S. Marshall Radar Observatory), while being part of the network, is owned by McGill University. It is a research as well as an operational radar and is modified independently. The Jimmy Lake and Lac Castor stations are owned and operated by the Department of Defense (DND), these are also part of the network.

In February 2017, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, announced the signature of a $83‑million contract with Selex ES to buy 20 new radars with the most modern technology available (S band and double polarized) to update the network.[5][6] The first radar was installed in Radisson, SK in the fall of 2017. The second radar was installed in the summer of 2018 at Blainville in the Montreal region to replace the aging McGill radar (WMN). 2018 will also see replacement radars at Foxwarren MB, Timmins ON ( near Smooth Rock Falls), and Spirit River AB with the rest being replaced sequentially by 2023. An additional radar will be installed in the Lower Athabasca region in Alberta and the contract also contains options to replace all radars in the Canadian Weather Radar Network, by March 31, 2023

Characteristics before 2018[edit]

  • McGill radar (at the J. S. Marshall Radar Observatory):[7]
    • 9 metre (30 feet) diameter antenna.
    • Uses a klystron to produce a wavelength signal of 10 cm. (S-Band)
    • Doppler since 1993 and dual polarization was added in 1999.
  • King City weather radar station
    • This research radar is essentially a WSR-98A (see below) upgraded with dual polarization capability in 2004.
  • The rest of the network:[4]
    • The existing radars have antennas from two manufacturers: Enterprise Electronics Corporation (EEC) and Raytheon.
    • some of the existing radars have antennas produced by Andrew Canada. With a diameter almost double the old ones; resolutions improved by the same amount.
    • Use 5.6 cm wavelength emitting magnetrons. (C-Band)
    • Process received reflectivity and Doppler data with Sigmet Radar Data Systems, now a part of Vaisala Oyj.
    • Each radar in the network will thus be called a WSR-98E, WSR-98R or WSR-98A for Weather Surveillance Radar - 1998 (for the year of the start of the program) and the first letter of the manufacturer of the Pedestal/Antenna (Enterprise, Raytheon or Andrew).
    • Antennas of 3.6 metres in diameter for the ungraded radars and 6.1 m for the new ones.
    • Pulse length and pulse repetition frequency adjustable. Pulse length 0.8,1.6 and 2.0s. Pulse repetition frequency (PRF) 250 Hz and Dual PRF (Doppler Mode) 1190/1200 Hz.

Scanning strategy[edit]

Because the network is using C band radars, compromises had to be used (see Doppler dilemma) between maximum reflectivity range and maximum non ambiguous velocities. The actual scanning strategy (2006) is divided in two separate scans over 10 minutes:[4]

  • Conventional cycle: 24 elevation angles scanned in 5 minutes to obtain a tri-dimensional view of the atmosphere within 256 km of the radar in reflectivity.
  • Doppler cycle: 4 angles scanned in reflectivity and velocities, the first three in a range of 128 km and the last within 256 km. This cycle is used to locate possible small scale rotation and shear in the wind pattern as well as the large scale circulation. The velocity data also help to filter artifacts in the reflectivity such as ground echos.

The McGill radar uses a S-band transmitter instead of a C-band transmitter to acquire reflectivities and velocities during each of its 24 elevation angles with the same 5 minute cycle time.[7]

Modernization project[edit]

Environment and Climate Change Canada received the funding from the Treasury Board in 2011 to undergo a major modernization project called 'WES (Weather and Environmental Services) Renewal' to upgrade to dual polarization all Canadian Radars in two separate five year plans. Complete network stabilization and systemic problems resolution were also part of this major effort by Environment and Climate Change Canada. The first five years concentrated on the upgrading and stabilizing the existing radars. Then all Canadian weather radars will be replaced with a dual polarization S-band radar between 2017 and 2023. A new radar, owned and operated by ECCC, has been installed in Blainville (near Montreal) to replace the use of the McGill radar. As well, a new radar will be installed in the Lower Athabasca area. .[8]

The new radar chosen is the Selex METEOR 1700S which is fully Doppler and dual polarized:[1] · [9]

  • Transmitter type: Klystron
  • Frequency : 2,7 - 2,9 GHz
  • Pulse repetition frequency (PRF): 250 – 2000 Hz
  • Pulse length (τ): 0,4 µs ... 4,5 µs
  • Peak power: 750 kW
  • Doppler range: 240 km
  • Reflectitvity normal range: 300 km
  • maximum range: 600 km
  • Velocity resolution : ± 214 m/s
  • Antenna diameter: 8.5 m
  • Beamwidth : < 1°
  • Rotation: 6 min-1

These new S-Band radars offer more flexibility over the previous C-Band radars. The scanning strategy of 17 angles scanned in 6 minutes, and the new dual-polarization feature provide:[10]

  • Dual polarization will permit to better differentiate the type of precipitation (rain, snow, hail and freezing rain), biological and non-biological targets such as birds, insects, chaff, and tornado debris signature.
  • The radial velocity range (Doppler range) will be extended to 240 kilometres (150 mi), from 120 kilometres (75 mi), permitting an improved lead time in weather warnings issuance and a better overlap of radar coverage with other nearby radars.

List of radars[edit]

The first modernization process began in the fall of 1998 with the opening of Bethune radar and ended in 2004 with the one in Timmins. The replacement of C-band 250 kW Magnetron single-pol radars with S-band 1MW Klystron dual-pol radars began in 2017 and will end in 2023.[11]

Canadian Weather Radar Network
Site Location Province Coordinates ID/call sign Band Type Callsign meaning Notes
Aldergrove Vancouver British Columbia 49°01′00″N 122°29′13″W / 49.01662°N 122.48698°W / 49.01662; -122.48698 (CWUJ - Aldergrove) CWUJ C 98E
Bethune Regina Saskatchewan 50°34′16″N 105°10′58″W / 50.57108°N 105.18268°W / 50.57108; -105.18268 (CXBE - Bethune) CXBE C 98A Bethune
Blainville Blainville
(North of Montréal)
Québec 45°42′23″N 73°51′31″W / 45.70634°N 73.85852°W / 45.70634; -73.85852 (CASBV - Blainville) CASBV S Selex 1700S BlainVille New radar commissioned at the end of September 2018, replacing McGill radar (CWMN).[12]
Britt Georgian Bay Ontario 45°47′35″N 80°32′02″W / 45.79317°N 80.53385°W / 45.79317; -80.53385 (CWBI - Britt) CWBI C 98A Britt
Carvel Edmonton Alberta 53°33′38″N 114°08′42″W / 53.56056°N 114.14495°W / 53.56056; -114.14495 (CWHK - Carvel) CWHK C 98E
Chipman Central New Brunswick New Brunswick 46°13′20″N 65°41′55″W / 46.22222°N 65.69861°W / 46.22222; -65.69861 (CXNC - Chipman) CXNC C 98E New Brunswick Chipman
Dryden Western Ontario Ontario 49°51′30″N 92°47′49″W / 49.85823°N 92.79698°W / 49.85823; -92.79698 (CXDR - Dryden) CXDR C 98E Dryden
Exeter Southwestern Ontario Ontario 43°22′13″N 81°23′03″W / 43.37028°N 81.38417°W / 43.37028; -81.38417 (CWSO - Exeter) CWSO C 98A Southern Ontario
Foxwarren Eastern Saskatchewan/Western Manitoba Manitoba 50°32′56″N 101°05′09″W / 50.54887°N 101.08570°W / 50.54887; -101.08570 (CASFW - Foxwarren) CASFW S Selex 1700S Foxwarren Radar commissioned in September 2018, replacing CXFW, a C-band radar.[13] A temporary mobile X-band radar was deployed during the upgrade until October 31, 2018.[14][15]
Franktown Eastern Ontario Ontario 45°02′28″N 76°06′58″W / 45.04101°N 76.11617°W / 45.04101; -76.11617 (CXFT - Franktown) CXFT C 98A Franktown
Gore Central Hants County Nova Scotia 45°05′55″N 63°42′16″W / 45.09850°N 63.70433°W / 45.09850; -63.70433 (CXGO - Gore) CXGO C 98A Gore
Holyrood Eastern Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador 47°19′35″N 53°07′36″W / 47.32644°N 53.12658°W / 47.32644; -53.12658 (CWTP - Holyrood) CWTP C 98R
Jimmy Lake NW Saskatchewan/NE Alberta Saskatchewan 54°54′48″N 109°57′19″W / 54.91333°N 109.95528°W / 54.91333; -109.95528 (CWHN - Jimmy Lake) CWHN C 98E
King City Southern Ontario Ontario 43°57′50″N 79°34′26″W / 43.96393°N 79.57388°W / 43.96393; -79.57388 (CWKR - King City) CWKR C 98A King City Radar
Lac Castor Saguenay River Quebec 48°34′33″N 70°40′04″W / 48.57581°N 70.66784°W / 48.57581; -70.66784 (CWMB - Lac Castor) CWMB C 98E
Landrienne Amos Quebec 48°33′05″N 77°48′29″W / 48.55152°N 77.80815°W / 48.55152; -77.80815 (CXLA - Landrienne) CXLA C 98R Landrienne Amos
Marble Mountain Western Newfoundland Newfoundland and Labrador 48°55′49″N 57°50′03″W / 48.93028°N 57.83417°W / 48.93028; -57.83417 (CXME - Marble Mountain) CXME C 98A Marble Mountain
Marion Bridge Southeastern Cape Breton County Nova Scotia 45°56′58″N 60°12′21″W / 45.94947°N 60.20578°W / 45.94947; -60.20578 (CXMB - Marion Bridge) CXMB C 98E Marion Bridge
Montreal River Sault Ste Marie Ontario 47°14′52″N 84°35′45″W / 47.24778°N 84.59583°W / 47.24778; -84.59583 (CWGJ - Montreal River) CWGJ C 98E
Mount Sicker Victoria British Columbia 48°51′40″N 123°45′24″W / 48.86099°N 123.75654°W / 48.86099; -123.75654 (CXSI - Mt-Sicker) CXSI C 98A Mount Sicker Suffered major hardware failure in November 2017, to be decommissioned on December 6, 2018. S-band replacement to be installed in 2021.[16][17]
Mount Silver Star Vernon British Columbia 50°22′10″N 119°03′52″W / 50.36950°N 119.06436°W / 50.36950; -119.06436 (CXSS - Mt-Silver Star) CXSS C 98A Silver Star
Prince George Northern B.C. British Columbia 53°36′47″N 122°57′16″W / 53.61308°N 122.95441°W / 53.61308; -122.95441 (CXPG - Prince George) CXPG C 98R Prince George
Radisson Saskatoon Saskatchewan 52°31′14″N 107°26′34″W / 52.52048°N 107.44269°W / 52.52048; -107.44269 (CASRA - Radisson) CASRA S Selex 1700S Radisson Radar commissioned in February 2018, replacing CXRA, a C-band radar.
Schuler Medicine Hat Alberta 50°18′45″N 110°11′44″W / 50.31250°N 110.19556°W / 50.31250; -110.19556 (CXBU - Schuler) CXBU C 98E Burstall This RADAR was originally planned to be located at Burstall, Saskatchewan.
Smooth Rock Falls Smooth Rock Falls Ontario 49°16′53″N 81°47′39″W / 49.28146°N 81.79406°W / 49.28146; -81.79406 (CASRF - Smooth Rock Falls) CASRF S Selex 1700S Smooth Rock Falls (The S in CASRF is for S-Band) Initially known as Timmins CXTI, then Northeast Ontario. Finally Smooth Rock Falls with the dual polarization upgrade Commissioned in 2018/10. [1]
Spirit River Grande Prairie Alberta 55°41′42″N 119°13′50″W / 55.69494°N 119.23043°W / 55.69494; -119.23043 (CASSR - Spirit River Weather Radar) CASSR Selex 1700S Spirit River This radar was replaced in 2018 and commissioned in Feb 2019 replacing CWWW a C-band radar that had been in operation since 2001/10
Strathmore Calgary Alberta 51°12′23″N 113°23′57″W / 51.20628°N 113.39906°W / 51.20628; -113.39906 (CXSM - Strathmore) CXSM C 98A Strathmore
Superior West Lasseter Lake Ontario 48°51′13″N 89°07′17″W / 48.85352°N 89.12150°W / 48.85352; -89.12150 (CXNI - Lasseter Lake) CXNI C 98E Nipigon
Val d'Irène Lower St. Lawrence Quebec 48°28′49″N 67°36′04″W / 48.48028°N 67.60111°W / 48.48028; -67.60111 (CXAM - Val d'Irène) CXAM C 98A Amqui
Villeroy Southwest of Quebec City Quebec 46°27′00″N 71°54′55″W / 46.45000°N 71.91528°W / 46.45000; -71.91528 (CWVY - Villeroy) CWVY C 98R Villeroy
Woodlands Winnipeg Manitoba 50°09′14″N 97°46′42″W / 50.15389°N 97.77833°W / 50.15389; -97.77833 (CXWL - Woodlands) CXWL C 98A Woodlands
Decommissioned sites of the Canadian Weather Radar Network
Site Location Province Coordinates ID/call sign Band Type Callsign meaning Notes
McGill Montreal Quebec 45°25′27″N 73°56′14″W / 45.42416°N 73.93735°W / 45.42416; -73.93735 (CWMN - McGill) CWMN S -- Montreal commissioned September 1968, decommissioned October 3, 2018, and replaced by the Blainville radar.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "METEOR 1700S Weather Radar" (PDF). SELEX ES. Archived (PDF) from the original on October 6, 2018. Retrieved October 5, 2018.
  2. ^ Atlas, David. Radar in Meteorology. American Meteorological Society. pp. 61–68. doi:10.1007/978-1-935704-15-7_8.
  3. ^ "Stormy Weather Group". McGill University. 2000. Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2006-06-15.
  4. ^ a b c Joe, Paul; Steve Lapczak (2002). "Evolution of the Canadian operational radar network" (PDF). Proceedings. 2nd European Conference on Radar in Meteorology and Hydrology (ERAD). Delft, The Netherlands. pp. 370–382. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  5. ^ Environment and Climate Change Canada (February 27, 2017). "The Government of Canada invests to modernize weather-forecasting infrastructure". Press release. Government of Canada. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Environment and Climate Change Canada (February 27, 2017). "Replacing Canada's weather-radar network". Press release. Government of Canada. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  7. ^ a b J. S. Marshall Radar Observatory (2010). "McGill S-band radar". McGill University. Retrieved 2011-09-19.
  8. ^ Government of Canada (January 25, 2012). "Weather Monitoring Infrastructure". Environnement Canada. Retrieved October 29, 2012.
  9. ^ Peter Quinlan (June 5, 2018). "Canada's most modern weather radar station opens near Saskatoon". Global News. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  10. ^ Meteorological Service of Canada (2018). "Modernizing Canada's weather-radar network". Government of Canada. Retrieved October 29, 2018.
  11. ^ "The National Radar Program". Environment Canada. 2004. Archived from the original on 2006-06-15. Retrieved 2006-06-15.
  12. ^ a b "Le Québec reçoit son premier radar météorologique à la fine pointe de la technologie". La Nouvelle Union (in French). October 16, 2018. Retrieved October 28, 2018.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Radar outages and maintenance". Environment Canada. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  17. ^

External links[edit]

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