Weather Hazards

Adverse Weather

This weekend was one for the books in western Canada. The BC Lions won the Grey Cup in a home turf game, and winds gusting to 144km/h (Category 1 Hurricane) pounded Calgary, closing down the downtown district and causing millions in damages. What does any of this have to do with diving? Well, we were supposed to hit the lake again, but we stayed home for the game instead. This was a good plan though, because even with mountains and a few hundred kilometres separating us from southern alberta, the winds had whipped the lake into a frenzy in places. So this late entry is on the little thought of hazard to diving: weather.

People don’t tend to think about weather too often when they’re diving past the level of ambient light and whether or not they’ll need a light going to their planned depth. Sometimes environmental concerns come in to, in extreme cases like ice diving and whatnot. There are two conditions that you always need to thing about though: wind and rain.

  • Wind is the less obvious of the two, after all, you’re going underwater right? So what if the surface is choppy? Well, surface currents are largely generated by wind action, and this can do everything from make navigation harder to making it difficult to engage in surface swims. Worse yet, in the event of an incident, you’re now surfaced in less than ideal circumstances, and any self rescue or buddy rescue will be hampered. Additionally, many divers are choosing to not use snorkels now, or don’t know how to deploy their folding ones in an emergency; this increases the drowning risk if you’re caught in rough water.
  • Rain is the obvious weather condition that divers often hit the water in. As a working diver, I’ve hit the water with rain coming down. The trick here is to know weather conditions, local weather tendencies and not to mix wind with rain. If it’s only spitting out, or if it’s a light rain with no chance of lightning, then dives can be conducted, just plan accordingly. If there’s any significant wind, or even a hint of lightening, it is not worth it. While the dive may go off without a hitch, if you can’t navigate back or if the boat can’t see you as the wind pushes you out under the camouflage of rain, or if lightning strikes while you’re in the water…

This may seem like a bit of a doom and gloom article, and being from BC, I know sometimes that dives happen in less than ideal conditions. Remember to, that both heavy wind and rain can increase turbidity, and drastically lower your range of vision at certain depths. While at the end of the day, each diver is responsible for their own safety, it’s good to think about the hazards on the surface and from the sky in addition to the ones beneath the waves! I’m back on a regular schedule again for a bit, so regular posts, and don’t forget to follow Cold Water Diver on Facebook  and Google+ for updates and links to diving related online content. Check out Ocean Tides as well, our official online shop for the coming season!

About the author

Graeme is a professional diver, qualified as a PADI and SDI Divemaster, DCBC 40m Unrestricted Commercial Scuba Diver, 30m Restricted Surface Supply diver, and CAUS Scientific Diver Lv.2. Graeme has an Associate Degree of Arts in Environmental Studies, where he focused on archaeology and physical geography, and an Advanced GIS certificate.