What not to wear, Canadian edition: (Mother Nature dictates style)

OTTAWA – Forget fashion magazines — a new survey suggests an increasing number of Canadians turn to weather forecasts to figure out what to wear.

The Environment Canada public-opinion survey examined where Canadians get their weather information and how they use it.

It suggests 36 per cent of Canadians use weather information to determine how to dress, up from 23 per cent in 2007.

The most popular way to use weather information remains to help plan outdoor events, though more Canadians are also using it for gardening, the analysis of the results suggests.

The study was carried out by Harris Decima between May 8 and 20, with 1,255 surveys completed by telephone and 1,257 completed online.

The analysis published by the department this week looks only at the phone results, which have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points.

Environment Canada has carried out similar surveys in 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2011, using them to determine what Canadians think of the services the government provides and how people want to get their weather information.

Most say they want to look for such information themselves but where they are looking appears to be changing slightly.

Radio and television — both the Weather Network channel and other stations — are the dominant sources, though newspapers ranked higher this year than in 2007.

But the study suggests the Internet is increasingly becoming a go-to source.

General Internet is mentioned a source by 29 per cent of Canadians — the same percentage who note general television as the place they look for a forecast.

Meanwhile, about 12 per cent of Canadians mentioned smart phone applications as a source, nearly twice as many than 2011.

Canadians are also interested in other potential sources.

“Social media holds promise as an up-and-coming source of weather information,” the analysis suggested.

“Just under a quarter of Canadians (and over a third of 18 to 34 year olds) are interested in receiving weather information via Facebook, while one in 10 is interested in similar services from Twitter or YouTube.”

The online exception appears to be the government’s own weather website,

Fewer Canadians reported being aware of it this year than last, and the proportion of those who say they use it once a day is down by five percentage points from 2007.

Awareness that the government also produces a special radio that broadcasts weather information around-the-clock also appears to be at an all-time low.

“Both of these services seem to be at risk of only serving a small niche of the Canadian weather information and services market,” the report said.

In a year of earthquakes, hurricanes and other serious weather events, the survey also looked at the extent to which Canadians believe their communities are at risk of extreme weather.

About 36 per cent of Canadians felt their community was somewhat at risk, and seven per cent felt they were very at risk.

But when they see a weather warning, fewer than half of Canadians reported they don’t respond.

What kind of weather matters depends on where respondents lived.

Those surveyed were presented four different weather scenarios and asked to choose a phrase from each set that would be the most significant if it appeared in a weather report.

British Columbians and Albertans viewed icy roads as being more significant than freezing rain or heavy snow.

Quebecers were more likely than other Canadians to believe the risk of thunderstorms was more significant than 90 kilometre-per-hour winds or power outages.

Ontarians were the only Canadians who believe a humidex of 43 degrees would be more significant than a high temperature of 35 degrees.