At Environment Canada's Canadian Meteorological Centre, a powerful computer dedicated to forecasting our weather performs more than 100 billion operations per second. Computers have revolutionized meteorology, and one of the pioneers in the field was Dr. André Robert. He released the first Canadian computer simulation of weather patterns in 1963 and became a world leader in improving computerized weather simulations. Such technological advances have helped to make weather predictions - for example, the January 1998 ice storm - more accurate.
There's enough computer power in this room to perform 384 billion operations per second. That makes this the most powerful computer site in Canada. Located at the Canadian Meteorological Centre in Dorval, Quebec, the supercomputer is dedicated to the one thing everybody in the world talks about... the weather. A weather forecast that takes this super computer two and a half hours to make, would take more than a month using a personal computer. Computers revolutionized meteorology, and one of the pioneers in the field was Dr. André Robert who released the first computer model, or simulation, of weather patterns in 1963.
My personal view is that if there was a Nobel prize in meteorology, he would have won it. Dr. André Robert was an exceptional scientist, in atmospheric sciences, and he was the first person to do simulations on computers of weather patterns and of their forecasts. He improved the techniques to simulate weather on computers to the point that, with his studies, they are now 30 times faster than they were before. That has been added in addition to the increase in computer power in order to generate improved forecasts worldwide. What Dr. André Robert accomplished is to change the way we simulate the weather on computers and the fundamentals that he changed are still used in most models worldwide in all countries.
Thanks to the contributions of scientists such as Dr. Robert, improved forecasting models, and sophisticated technology, meteorologists have been able to make their predictions more accurate. Based on the weather forecast, the ice storm of January 1998 was declared an emergency before the worst of it hit.
Not only did we forecast the ice storm, in advance the day before, but we also forecasted that this ice storm would continue for four days. This has prompted the Quebec government to invoke the Emergencies Law before the situation became very bad. And so people were getting ready in terms of responding to the emergency even before we started to lose power.
Dr. Robert's goal had been to make perfect weather forecasts, but he died in 1993 without realizing his dream. The ice storm of '98 may have been perfectly awful, but the forecast was nearly perfect. Dr. André Robert would have been proud.
Earth Tones is produced in co-operation with Environment Canada.