From: (Lowell Skoog)
Subject: Wanted: Canadian forecast decoder ring
To: (NW Paragliding Forum)
Date: Mon, 8 Sep 1997 08:38:08 -0700 (PDT)

Ray's B.C. weather forecast reminded me of a longtime question: How do you translate the weather forecasts from Environment Canada into equivalent U.S. terminology?

I'm not saying that U.S. terminology is better. It's just that, after listening to NOAA forecasts for years, I think I've broken the code. The way I figure it, the NOAA weather scale looks something like this:

Good weather
"Mostly sunny"
"Partly sunny"
"Partly cloudy"
"Mostly cloudy"
Bad weather
On the other hand, the Environment Canada forecasts use words like:
"A mix of clouds and sun"
"Cloudy with sunny periods"
"Sunny with cloudy periods"
"Mainly sunny/cloudy"
Can anyone tell me what they mean? For example, is "sunny with cloudy periods" a better forecast than "cloudy with sunny periods"? And where does "a mix of clouds and sun" fall on the scale?

Curiously yours,
Lowell Skoog
Seattle From: (Randy S. Parkin)
Subject: RE: Wanted: Canadian forecast decoder ring
To: (NW List)
Date: Wed, 10 Sep 1997 13:47:20 -0700

Lowell Skoog asked: "How do you translate the weather forecasts from Environment Canada into equivalent U.S. terminology?

Thanks for asking, Lowell. I can't translate these terms into American for you (can't speak French either, by the way), but I will try to give you a practical set of guidelines for interpretation--the pessimistic drivel of a pale, wrinkled man.

First, always assume it is cloudy, raining/snowing and cold. If it's the weekend of the Canadian Nationals, this assumption will be right. Any other time, see instructions below.

If they say "cloudy", there has been a major work disruption at the weather service, management is handling the forecast, they screwed up and put out the truth--cancel any outdoor plans.

If they say "cloudy with sunny periods", then you will drive to launch, observe the weather conditions, say "Oh f-k!" on observing the thick cloud cover, and then wait all day for an opening that will be only long enough to setup before the clouds clap together again. Please note, the related term "cloudy with sunny breaks" means only those very quick at setup will have a chance to do so in sunlight.

If they say "sunny with cloudy periods", then you will drive to launch, say "Hey, great!", set up, observe the cloud cover moving in, then wait all day for the promised "sunny" part which, by the way, won't come unless you fold up to go home.

If they say "sunny", then it is: 1. the long weekend and there has been sufficient lobbying from the tourist industry, or 2. a weekday and you should be at work, or 3. the long awaited meltdown of the nuclear power plant in you neighborhood (only for southern Ontario pilots).

You rightly ask about "a mix of sun and clouds". This forecast always follows unusual weather phenomenon, Christmas parties, Friday nights and just about any other excuse for weather people to drink. It is a description of what they're seeing when they look up, not a description of what's actually there.

Two other unique characteristics of Canadian weather forecasts, Lowell. First, they always give a POP or probability of precipitation. Subtract this number from 100 to determine our requirement for tourism dollars as a percentage of GNP to have a balanced budget this quarter (Of course, balanced means achievement of the planned deficit). Second, our temperatures are usually expressed in small numbers like 22 or 7. Please disregard that old wives tale you've heard about how Canada has adopted the metric system--these numbers are actual temperatures in Fahrenheit.

Hoping this helps,

The Alpenglow Gallery