Freezing rain pictures to set the mood.
Churchill Walking into the Light.
After 3-4 hours sleep I awoke at 6 am to get ready to work at the weather office. The shift is 12.25 hours, starting at 7 am, and today I was responsible for the Newfoundland and Labrador public and 5 day forecasts and the media messages for same. In case you don't know, one forecaster is responsible for the NL public forecast, one for the NS/NB/PEI public forecasts, one for the marine forecasts for the Maritimes and Newfoundland, one for the wave forecasts for all Atlantic Canadian waters, and in the spring one for the weather forecast used to help predict flooding along the St. John River in New Brunswick. Finally there is a supervisor responsible for checking all the forecasts and monitoring things, and for doing a few forecasts of his or her own.
For those unaware of the geography involved, ALL the Maritime provinces combined have about the same land area as Newfoundland, and Newfoundland has 1/3 the land area of Labrador. The point here is that today I was forecasting for 80% of the area of the Atlantic Provinces.
The second implication is that there is almost always something going on, and that there isn't much time to waste. For example, I remember the following problems that had to be addressed:
- In Labrador, a heavy snowfall ending in Goose Bay; drizzle and rain in the Strait of Belle Isle; freezing rain a little north of that; continuous snow in Cartwright; whether, where, and when we would get freezing rain tomorrow along the coast; and ice pressure warnings along the South and Mid Labrador Coasts,
- Avalon Peninsula: whether freezing rain would make it to the Avalon Peninsula tonight and tomorrow night, and whether there would be any sunny breaks today or tomorrow (I wasn't overly optimistic, and I saw little evidence except near Grates Cove for today),
- Northeast Coast: freezing drizzle and whether it would be continuous for 8 hours or more, which would require a warning. Also, when and if wet snow would change to rain,
- Baie Verte: Rain changing to snow, then to snow mixed with freezing rain, switching to flurries, then …. all based on one auto station that doesn't tell you what the precipitation type is and with a badly calibrated set of temperature measuring devices. The only other thing is a Dept. of Highways webcam with a dirty lens!
- West coast: continuous flurries and when they would die out,
- South Coast: nothing much,
- Central: whether significant freezing drizzle would penetrate from the Northeast coast,
- Extended forecasts for both Labrador and Newfoundland out to five days.
To make it more interesting, the entire cycle has to be done twice during a shift, add a forest fire forecast for the entire province, add media interviews on some days, and you can see it can get a little hectic. Finally, this was a day when no warnings had to be issued or monitored or updated every three hours or less.
Also today I had to get a little admin work done because security in the building was being enhanced, so I now have a new key and a new badge with a picture of me with a sour expression.
While things were going on today, Lee Titus, a friend from the old Gander office came down and asked for a little help with Matlab. He wanted to make a function that would locate any geographical point in our forecast region within its appropriate grid box in the weather model. I figured out a 6 line algorithm to do this and explained the idea to him and what functions he would need. He came back just as I'd finished the morning forecast with a problem (he'd forgotten to reference his map to a grid reference). Then while I was working on the afternoon forecast (we have one less hour to do this because of the time change and the fact that the computer model can't change to daylight saving time; data around the world is fed into the model at 0,6,12,and 18 hours Greenwich), Lee comes back telling me he keeps getting the wrong location. I told him I'd see him after the forecast issue time, then I had a look; he'd flipped lat for long in one line of the code. After fixing it and testing with a few points he went home happy and I had 3 hours left in my shift.
I went back to the weather office and monitored and adjusted the forecast a little, then left at 7 pm. After getting home I realised I'd forgotten to log my work hours, and I'll have to go back some time this week to do it.
However, some good things happened. Overall the forecast worked out for today, especially on the Northeast Coast and in Labrador. Second, when going for coffee I saw some possible photo ops so the next time I went for coffee I took the camera. Then after work I saw some nice clouds behind the MacDonald Bridge (a suspension bridge) and got some images which may or may not work out. It looked really nice in real life, and it was fun trying to get a good exposure, and to shoot without a tripod near sundown. Also, the time change allowed me to be outside before dark after work!
This is one of the best things about photography. Whether your shots work or not, you have seen something nice enough to deserve a good shot, and you have paid attention to it and enjoyed it. Also, in trying to get a good composition, you get to see the scene from a good vantage. Finally, as a photographer you are always noticing things that are interesting, funny, attractive, or really beautiful. You aren't worrying about the little things, and you are more in the world.
In summary, a typical day forecasting for Newfoundland and Labrador, working with pleasant people who share your disgust with some of the tools that Environment Canada is forced to use this day, and ending with some nice images and scenery. Tomorrow it is back to regular research at Dalhousie.