Record cold, winter cyclone symptoms of a warming planet

It was so cold, even the penguins had to be moved indoors. The Calgary Zoo was just one of hundreds of locations across North America impacted by the recent spell of record-breaking cold temperatures. And while Canadians are no stranger to extreme cold, the seemingly never-ending blast of icy Arctic air that 2017 left in…

Hey Winnipeg: was November warm or cold?

Hey Winnipeg: was this a cold November, or a warm November? Winnipeggers need no reminding that November 2017 started off cold. Very cold. Record-breaking, in fact: November 9th set a frigid new record low of -23.7 °C. Predictably, many online commentators used the cold as a talking point to deny the reality of climate change….

Animating Canada’s Climate History

This animated map shows Canada’s changing climate using weather station data going all the way back to 1898. Through much of the 20th century, the map shows a mixture of red dots (warmer than average) and grey dots (colder than average). Year-to-year fluctuations and regional differences are a normal part of a healthy climate system….

Seeing is Believing: Temperature Records Prove Canada is Warming

A whole generation of Canadians has never experienced what was considered a “normal” Canadian climate for most of modern history. Historical records show that every year since 1998 – that’s 20 years ago now – has been warmer than the 20th century average. The images below illustrate historical Canadian climate data back to 1898 (Data…

New maps highlight changes coming to Canada’s climate

A new series of maps made by climatologists at the Prairie Climate Centre highlights just how vulnerable Canada is to continued climate changes. The maps illustrate how temperature and precipitation are likely to change in the future under two hypothetical warming scenarios: a ‘low carbon’ scenario that assumes the international community will get together very…

The Prairie Climate Atlas: making climate science meaningful

The Prairie Climate Atlas has been created as a tool for communicating the severity of climate change in the Prairie Provinces. The collection of interactive maps and graphs available throughout the website allow users to explore how climate is projected to change across the Prairies. In the coming months, we will be linking this modelling…

2017 a record year for smoke

Temperatures throughout Canada’s forests are rising fast because of human-caused global climate change, leaving researchers increasingly worried about the potential for longer, more deadly forest fire seasons in the near future.   One of the under-reported consequences of forest fires is their impact on air quality.  In many cases, communities several hundreds of kilometers downwind…

Hurricanes and Climate Change

Every year, beginning around the end of August and continuing into November, North America anxiously endures hurricane season. Hurricanes form in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and track westward towards the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and mainland United States.  The wind speeds in strong hurricanes rival those in most tornadoes, and can cause massive destruction over…

The Heat is On, Or Why A Few Degrees is a Big Deal

Sometimes it’s hot. Sometimes it’s not. But, wait: if we’re emitting more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and heating up the planet, why doesn’t the temperature always increase too? The answer comes partly because there’s an important difference between “heat” and “temperature.” For example, when you put a pot of water on the…

Four degrees of separation: lessons from the last Ice Age

  The pace and magnitude of human-caused climate change is nothing short of remarkable. The dramatic climate change we are now experiencing is a rapid and unexpected side effect of the astonishing ingenuity of humanity. It’s really quite amazing that industrialization – harnessing the power of machines to do our work – could have such…

This ain’t your grandparents’ climate

    Memory has a way of distorting our perceptions of climate change. We remember snow drifts as high as our heads when we were kids, but forget that we were only three feet tall. We remember experiencing weeks on end of ‘windchill 2000’ weather in February, but forget that that way of measuring wind…

Warmer Prairie winters: sounds good, but what does it really mean?

Residents of Churchill, Manitoba know cold. On average, Churchill experiences about 44 days of extreme cold — where the minimum temperature drops below -30 °C — per year. These temperatures are potentially dangerous for those not accustomed or prepared for them; but are vital to the ecosystem and an important component of the global climate…

Science Update: Tropical Nights in Manitoba?

A Tropical Night occurs when the overnight temperature remains above 20 °C. Tropical Nights are exceptionally rare phenomena across most of Prairies. In fact, both Calgary and Edmonton experienced a grand total of zero Tropical Nights between 1981 and 2010. Winnipeg experiences an average of one Tropical Night per year. Water is a Greenhouse Gas….

Opinion: The 1.5 °C Challenge

      A recent article in the Guardian newspaper highlights the implications of the Paris agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 °C compared to 2 °C as had been the generally accepted target prior to Paris – the implications bear directly on how we plan climate adaptation and mitigation policy for the Canadian…

Climate Report Cards: how prepared is your region for climate change?

    With the launch of the Prairie Climate Atlas last month came a new adaptation tool we called the ‘Climate Report Card.’ These reports detailed climate change statistics for major cities and towns across the three Prairie Provinces, and allow local leaders, researchers and members of the public to see how climate change will…

Science Update: the ‘wet gets wetter, dry gets drier’ trend

    A recent publication in Nature Climate Change (Donat et al, 2016) has significant implications for future water management on the Canadian Prairies.   The influence of a warming planet on precipitation patterns is a central question that climatologists must address to guide policies for climate adaptation. Over the ocean,  climatologists generally agree that regions of the…