A weather radar station west of Edmonton is being replaced by a new station featuring the latest technology for improved forecasting capabilities.
The new weather radar at Carvel, Alta., a hamlet located 55 kilometres west of the city, should be up and running by December, Environment Canada meteorologist Alysa Pederson told CBC News on Monday.
"Basically it's just an update to new state-of-the-art radars so we can see the weather better," Pederson said.
Crews are currently pouring concrete for the base of the new radar tower, she said.
The new radar will be about 35 metres tall — a 22-metre steel tower topped by a dome-covered antenna nearly 12 metres in diameter. It's being constructed on property owned by Environment and Climate Change Canada.
In 2017, the federal government announced plans to modernize Canada's radar network by replacing all existing weather-radar stations across the country.
A contract was awarded to buy and install 32 new radars by March 31, 2023. The project includes adding one new radar, in the Fort McMurray area, to the existing network.
The first new radar was installed in Radisson, Sask., in 2017.
On its website, Environment Canada says the new radars have "dual-polarization" technology, allowing forecasters to better distinguish between rain, snow, hail and freezing rain and to get a better idea of the size, shape and variety of precipitation particles.
Weather watches and warnings will be more precise and timely with the new system, Environment Canada says.
Carvel's station was scheduled for decommissioning and replacement starting in late August.
The old station's Doppler radar — useful for forecasting summer storms "that are rotating," Pederson said — had a range of 120 kilometres.
The new Carvel station, like the others across Canada, will have a Doppler radar range of 240 kilometres.
While the new station is being constructed, the old Carvel station will be offline. But it will be possible to turn it on again until Sept. 23 in the event of severe weather, Pederson said.
"After that period, though, it will be totally dysfunctional and not able to be turned back on."
Weather forecasting won't suffer while the Carvel station is down because there are other ways to get a picture of what's coming, Pederson said.
While weather radar is "a key tool" in summer months, it becomes less vital later in the year, she said.
"For the next couple of months, it shouldn't impact forecasting itself so much."
Pederson said Environment Canada meteorologists study Alberta's weather every day using computer models, satellite data and observed data such as precipitation measurements.
"We have a lot of different things that we look at to make a weather forecast. So although the weather radar is down, there's still some pretty high-tech tools that we have to look at the forecast in real-time."