Last week we launched the Prairie Climate Atlas – which illustrates how climate change is likely to impact the Canadian Prairie Provinces. One of the most dramatic maps in the atlas shows how the number of days per year with temperatures greater than or equal to +30 °C triples or even quadruples across the southern Prairies by the end of this century.
The animation above shows how the annual number of +30 °C days changes from 1981 to 2095. The animation was compiled using output from an ensemble of climate models running the RCP8.5 scenario, which is akin to a ‘business as usual’ carbon emissions scenario.
What could this change mean for life on the Prairies? A multitude of negative outcomes can be anticipated. Extreme heat can increase the frequency, duration and intensity of forest fires. The extreme heat will greatly impact agriculture, as many of the crop varieties we currently grow are not able to tolerate these high temperatures for long periods of time. The heat may also increase the risk of crop diseases and pathogens. In contrast, many invasive species can better tolerate the heat, leading to higher pesticide and herbicide usage and increased risk to our local native ecosystems. Further north, extreme heat will speed up permafrost melt, which is heavily relied upon for roads and railways.
The dramatic increase in number of +30 °C days may become our reality if we do not make serious attempts at reducing our CO2 emissions. On our website, we show how switching to a lower carbon emissions scenario influences the map.
For more maps and information about our methods and data sources, please visit our website: climateatlas.ca