Where Do Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Come From?

Earth’s atmosphere is made up of many different gases, some of which are “greenhouse” gases. They are called that because they effectively act like a greenhouse or a layer of insulation for Earth: they trap heat and warm the planet. For the past couple of hundred years, human activities (such as burning coal to generate…

The Venus Paradox

The planet Venus is hot. Really hot. Its average surface temperature is over 460 °C, compared to Earth’s 14 °C. This might not come as a surprise: Venus is, after all, much closer to the sun than we are. So, the paradox is not that Venus is so hot, it’s that Venus is also so…

2017 ranked second-hottest year on record

To almost nobody’s surprise, 2017 was ranked as the second-hottest year ever recorded. At 0.9 °C above the 1950-1980 average, 2017 is second only to 2016, when one of the strongest El Niño events on record pushed global temperatures above 1 °C. In fact, when the temperature-boosting effects of El Niño are ignored, 2017 actually…

Urban forests under threat from climate change

Picture this: a quaint suburban street with row upon row of mature ash trees, their canopies growing and weaving together to form a tunnel of green, through which you can just make out a row of houses being shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Before 2002, much of Toronto fit this description perfectly. Today, thanks…

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….

It ain’t natural: how we know humans are causing climate change

Scientists have collected a huge amount of evidence proving that Earth is heating up. Over a century of meticulous temperature records from around the world plus state-of-the-art satellite and ocean-buoy measurements show that the average global temperature is getting warmer and warmer. Many people wonder how we know that it’s us – humans – causing…

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…

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…

Keeling’s Curve

    How do we know for sure that human activities are resulting in an increase in global carbon dioxide concentrations? The answer involves accurately measuring the amount of CO2 in the air, a seemingly simple problem that’s actually deceptively complex.   If you tried to record the concentration of carbon dioxide near your home,…

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…

“Climate” vs “Weather”

Canadians pay a lot of attention to weather. Over the course of the year most of us see remarkable extremes of heat and cold—from -40°C in the winter to +40°C in the summer—that are unlike almost any place else on Earth. What it’s like outside seriously affects our daily lives. So we’re used to predicting,…

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…

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…