The Canadian Budget 2010 sets aside CAN $34.8 million over the next five years for enhancements to the country’s Arctic weather and navigation information systems. As part of Canada’s commitment to the International Maritime Organization, the government provides data on two regions of the Arctic largely within Canadian Arctic waters: the Northwest Passage and the western coast of Greenland. Peter Kent, the Environment Minister, and Gail Shea, the Oceans Minister, announced the new allocation on Monday in Yellowknife. Environment Canada will contribute $26.5 million, while Fisheries and Oeans will contribute $8.3 million to the undertaking.
Shea announced, “”Our Government’s investment in new navigational areas will allow the Canadian Coast Guard to improve the coverage for Arctic areas not currently covered by satellite…This improves navigational safety information services for mariners in the Arctic Ocean and supports the Government’s Northern Strategy.”
Currently, meteorological and navigational information are only available seasonally. However, as melting sea ice opens more shipping lanes, the amount of ship traffic passing through the waters north of Canada is expected to increase. If, as estimated, 30 to 100 years from now, the ice cap has more or less melted completely, shipping could occur year-round. Sooner than that, though, the shipping season will lengthen. Canada is preparing for this by beginning to provide daily updates on weather, sea ice, and navigational conditions. This information will help provide mariners and Northerners with information essential to safety.
Information will be broadcast over the INMARSAT-C satellite and, for areas not covered by satellite like much of Nunavut, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ high-frequency radios. Meteorological stations equipped with satellite reception facilities currently exist in Edmonton, Alberta and Gander, Newfoundland, while a third one has recently opened in Resolute Bay, Nunavut, where the new High Arctic Research Facility is being constructed. These stations download data from polar-orbiting satellites on everything from sea ice thickness to temperature. Canada’s waters may be icy, but they will soon be safer to ply.
“Government of Canada Improves Weather and Marine Services in the Arctic,” Environment Canada
Backgrounder: “Arctic Navigation – The Canadian Experience,” Mariport (PDF)