If you live in a rural area, chances are that you have been frustrated by weather forecasts in the past.

Have you been rained out while spraying a field of canola or just after swathing? Was a last minute camping trip with the family impacted by rain causing you to spend all weekend in the trailer playing card games?  Vows just starting at an outdoor wedding and you forgot an umbrella? Caught out on the lake during a nasty wind?

Weather is a tricky thing to predict and getting the forecast right for an entire province is nearly impossible to do. I’ve shown a few friends how they can check the weather models for their own farms. It recently came up again on Facebook so I thought I’d post a quick tutorial to help demystify a few things and help get people started.

www.Spotwx.com  has a very simple straight forward graphical layout that does not require any special knowledge, calculus or interpretation.  Go ahead and bookmark the site and I will walk you through what I do.

Note: I do not use this for forecasting supercells, hail or tornadoes – but is very useful for the basics like rain, snow, wind and temperature.

The first example I will give is an example how useful this page could have been last year.  On October 17 2017 a grass fire that started in Alberta advanced very quickly into Saskatchewan due to severe winds.  A front was advancing eastward and would change the wind direction as it did so.  That was a scary day; the smoke was so thick the fire fighters could not always see the fast moving fire they were fighting.  That afternoon I posted a screenshot to Facebook showing that the wind would change direction, which I’ve highlighted with red arrows.

The wind did change direction and it caught people who were fighting the fire off guard.  This article talks about the wind change that caused devastating injuries to Eddie Riehl. Sadly, there were others injured that day as well as one death.

I now wish I had done more than just post that to Facebook, but I assumed that someone from Environment Canada would be coordinating and in contact with the emergency response efforts.

So, back to the models.

As you can see there are many models to choose from.  I like to check more than just 1.  If I have checked 5 of them, and 4 show it will rain, my confidence is pretty high it will rain.  I have my favorites, most everyone does, and you likely will develop your own along the way.  The main page has useful information; the shorter range models will be more accurate as a rule.  They also show which run of the models is current (longer range models don’t update as often, some like the HRRR update hourly). I’ve underlined some of the more useful information.

This is the screenshot I posted on Facebook earlier this week.  It is Wednesdays NAM model showing snow on Thursday.  Now, it was the only model showing snow, but I thought it was worth while taking a screen shot of the possibility of snow in the middle of May.

The arrows show the model run, when the precip was going to start, as well as my mouse-over bringing up totals.

I took another screenshot for the model on Thursday.  It was still showing snow, but less snow than it did on Wednesday.

This next one, a grab of an area north of here near Marengo / Flaxcombe that showed 17 cm of snow! 7 inches of snow in May!  I have not heard if they received snow or not, again, this was the only model that showed snow.  The other models did show rain, and all verified for Leader, it rained when it said it would, and about as much as it said it would.

Finally, here is a long range model I just grabbed now, May 11.  It is a nice way to have a quick look at projected temperature, rain, cloud cover, wind and wind direction.

So, www.spotwx.com – go and play, take some screen shots, and practice.  Your friends will think you are a genius.  Or… walk into coffee row chewing on a pig spleen and amaze all the farmers with your new secret forecasting tool!

Storm Chasing season is starting right away for me, I post many updates from under the storms on twitter, if you are on twitter feel free to give me a follow.


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