17 Oct 2020

17 Oct 2020

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal ESSD.

Meteorological observations collected during the Storms and Precipitation Across the continental Divide Experiment (SPADE), April–June 2019

Julie M. Thériault1, Stephen J. Déry2, John W. Pomeroy3, Hilary M. Smith1,2,4, Juris Almonte1,2, André Bertoncini3, Robert W. Crawford5, Aurélie Desroches-Lapointe1, Mathieu Lachapelle1, Zen Mariani5, Selina Mitchell2, Jeremy E. Morris2, Charlie Hébert-Pinard1, Peter Rodriguez5, and Hadleigh D. Thompson1 Julie M. Thériault et al.
  • 1Université du Québec à Montréal, Montréal, H3C 3P8, Canada
  • 2University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, V2N 4Z9, Canada
  • 3Centre for Hydrology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, S7N 1K2, Canada
  • 4University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, R3T 2N2, Canada
  • 5Environment and Climate Change Canada, Toronto, M3H 5T4, Canada

Abstract. The continental divide along the spine of the Canadian Rockies in southwestern Canada is a critical headwater region for hydrological drainages to the Pacific, Arctic, and Atlantic oceans. Major flooding events are typically attributed to heavy precipitation on its eastern side due to upslope (easterly) flows. Precipitation can also occur on the western side of the divide when moisture originating from the Pacific Ocean encounters the west-facing slopes of the Canadian Rockies. In other storms, substantial precipitation can fall on both sides. Meteorological data over this critical region are sparse, with few stations located at high elevations. Given the importance of all these types of events, the Storms and Precipitation Across the continental Divide Experiment (SPADE) was initiated to enhance our knowledge of the atmospheric processes leading to storms and precipitation on either side of the continental divide. This was accomplished by installing specialized meteorological instrumentation on both sides of the continental divide and carrying out manual observations during an intensive field campaign from 24 April–26 June 2019. On the eastern side, there were two field sites: (i) at Fortress Mountain Powerline (2076 m ASL) and (ii) at Fortress Junction Service, located in a high elevation valley (1580 m ASL). On the western side, Nipika Mountain Resort, also located in a valley (1087 m ASL), was chosen as a field site. Various meteorological instruments were deployed including two Doppler LiDARs, three vertically pointing micro rain radars and three optical disdrometers. The three main sites were nearly identically instrumented, and observers were on site at Fortress Mountain Powerline and Nipika Mountain Resort during precipitation events to take manual observations of precipitation type and microphotographs of solid particles. The objective of the field campaign was to gather high temporal frequency meteorological data and to compare the different conditions on either side of the divide to study the precipitation processes that can lead to catastrophic flooding in the region. Details on field sites, instrumentation used, and collection methods are discussed. Data from the study are publicly accessible from the public Federated Research Data Repository ( (Thériault et al., 2020). This dataset will serve as a baseline for future work on atmospheric conditions over major orographic features by comparing the varying conditions on either side of a large topographic feature. This paper also provides a sample of the data gathered during a precipitation event.

Julie M. Thériault et al.

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Julie M. Thériault et al.

Data sets

Meteorological observations and measurements collected during the Storms and Precipitation Across the continental Divide Experiment (SPADE), April–June 2019 J. M. Thériault, S. J. Déry, J. W. Pomeroy, R. E. Stewart, H. Smith, H. Thompson, A. Bertoncini, C. HébertPinard, S. Mitchell, J. Morris, J. Almonte, M. Lachapelle, Z. Mariani, and C. Carton

Julie M. Thériault et al.


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Short summary
This article discusses the data that were collected during the Storms and Precipitation Across the continental Divide (SPADE) field campaign in Spring 2019 in the Canadian Rockies, along the Alberta and British Columbia border. Various instruments were installed at five field sites to gather information about atmospheric conditions focussing on precipitation. Details about the field sites, the instrumentation used, the variables collected, and the collection methods and intervals are presented.