Alberta Climate Records


Visualizing Climate Change Past & Present

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Climate Analysis in Your Backyard

Through this application you can explore climate changes and averages for 6,834 10-by-10 km squares in Alberta for 52 climate indices based on historical records between 1951 - 2017 and three future projections for 2041 - 2070.

Where Do the Datasets Come From?

Hundreds of weather stations across Alberta have been recording daily temperature and precipitation amounts for decades.

These records allow scientists to track changes and analyze long-term patterns of a wide range of climate indices. It is revealed that the seemingly chaotic annual variation often has systematic, and often significant, trends.

What is a Climate Index?

A climate index is the measurement of the number of days per year that meet particular highs, lows, and sustained averages, such as the number of days above 25°C each year.

This application includes 55 indices that are useful for different applications, such as stresses caused by temperature extremes or dry/wet periods, or the frost-free period and growing season length.

Analyzing the Data

Dr. Stefan Kienzle and his lab at the University of Lethbridge analyzed the daily records to produce seven datasets that let us explore changes and averages for each climate index over time:


Historical Datasets

Future Datasets

67-year
Climate Changes

This dataset shows the average change over 67 years based on all the available yearly recordings

19512017

You can also look at the annual variability to see the annual ups and downs, showing that changes are not the same year after year.

30-year
Climate Averages

These datasets show 30-year averages of daily weather data for each climate index for six different time periods (5 historical; 1 future).

19511980
19611990
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19812010
19912017

Future Averages

These datasets were calculated using Regional Climate Models for 3 scenarios:

  1. average
  2. relatively warmer & dryer
  3. relatively cooler & wetter

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Let's start with mean temperature change between 1951 and 2017
Click on the map, zoom in where you want to go, and select a square to display the data for that location.
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About

The Alberta Climate Records website was developed by Christine Clark, Assistant Professor of New Media, and Dr. Stefan W. Kienzle, Professor of Hydrology and GIS, both at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta. The visualizations feature a dataset of over 500 million weather data between 1951 and 2017 for 6,834 locations across Alberta.

Credits

Analyses of climate indices and trends by the Kienzle Watershed and GIS Lab, University of Lethbridge.

Design and visualization programming by Christine Clark

Data provided by the Government of Canada.

For more information about the data analyses, contact Dr. Stefan Kienzle at stefan.kienzle@uleth.ca. For more information about the website, contact Christine at hello@chrisann.ca.

This project was conducted within the framework of two overlapping research projects. One project is the Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Extremes in the Americas (VACEA) project, which has the key objective of addressing a gap in the current understanding of the consequences of global climate change for regional climate variability and extremes and the resulting vulnerabilities of agricultural and indigenous communities. This part of the project was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The other project is the Predicting Alberta's Water Future (PAWF) project, funded by Alberta Innovates - Energy and Environment Solutions (AI-EES). Students and research assistants from the University of Lethbridge have contributed to various aspects of this project:


The map tiles are by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Map data by OpenStreetMap, under ODbL.

Data Sources

The Alberta climate dataset was analyzed by Dr. Stefan W. Kienzle, Professor of Geography (Hydrology and GIS) at the University of Lethbridge.

The research is aimed at providing systematic knowledge to satisfy the recognized requirement for "Better climate information for a better future", as coined by World Climate Conference-3. The Government of Canada has created a Canada-wide daily and spatially consistent climate dataset (daily minimum and maximum temperature, and precipitation), spanning the period 1951-2017, at a spatial resolution of 10 km by 10 km. This dataset was released by the National Land and Water Information Service (NLWIS), part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). Grid values were interpolated from daily climate station recordings (Environment Canada, 2015).

This database served as a keystone in the calculation of a wide range of temperature and precipitation indices. To cover the entire Province of Alberta, 6,834 time series were analyzed to detect trends for 52 climate indices using the non-parametric Mann-Kendall and Sen Slope tests. Many climate indices exhibit trends with confidence levels exceeding 95%, often exceeding 99%.

References:

Environment Canada, 2015: Climate Trends and Variations Bulletin - Annual for 2014 (https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/climate-change/science-research-data/climate-trends-variability.html. Accessed Nov. 2019.

Hopkinson RF, DW McKenney, EJ Milewska, MF Hutchinson, P Papadopol and LA Vincent 2011: Impact of Aligning Climatological Day on Gridding Daily Maximum-Minimum Temperature and Precipitation over Canada. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 50: 1654–1665.

Hutchinson MF, DW McKenney, K Lawrence, JH Pedlar, RF Hopkinson, E Milewska and P. Papadopol 2009: Development and testing of Canada-wide interpolated spatial models of daily minimum/maximum temperature and precipitation 1961-2003. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 48: 725-741.

Kienzle SW 2018: Has it become warmer in Alberta? Mapping temperature changes for the period 1950-2010 across Alberta, Canada. The Canadian Geographer 62(2): 144-162.

McKenney DW, MF Hutchinson, P Papadopol, K Lawrence, J Pedlar, C Kampbell, E Milewska, RF Hopkinson, D Price and T Owen 2011: Customized spatial climate models for North America. Bulletin of American Meteorological Society-BAMS December 2011: 1612-1622

Natural Resources Canada 2016: Regional, national and international climate modeling. (https://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/projects/3. Accessed Nov 2019)

Key Messages

  • 39 temperature indices and 16 precipitation indices were calculated for the period 1951 to 2017 for the Province of Alberta, including trend analysis with significance levels.
  • Results provide a compelling picture of overall warming and changes of weather extremes. It could be confirmed that Alberta's climate is warming stronger than the global average.
  • Annual average temperatures have increased by 1 - 2.5°C in the South, and by 2 - over 3°C in the North
  • Winters are showing the strongest warming, with 4 - 5°C in the South and 6 - 7°C in the North.
  • Summers are showing the weakest warming, ranging from about 0.5 - 1.5°C.
  • Generally, and with few exceptions, the number of extremely cold days, when the minimum temperature falls below -20°C, has about halved across Alberta since the 1950s.
  • Fluctuations between warm and cold weather is strongly increasing, indicated by the mostly doubling to four-folding of the number of heatwaves, while the number of cold spells has doubled to four-folded in most of Alberta.
  • With the exception of regions with high elevations, snowfall is being replaced by rainfall (because of shorter winters).
  • The growing season has lengthened by between 2 and 5 weeks per year.
  • In southern and central Alberta, average annual precipitation will slightly increase the future. However, the fluctuation between dry and wet years will increase, resulting in increased risk of floods and droughts.
  • The increased precipitation will mostly be balanced by much increased annual potential evapotranspiration by 100 - 300mm, resulting in decreased soil moisture.
  • Freeze-thaw days are increasing strongly in central and northern Alberta, resulting in increased weathering/stress on infrastructure (concrete, potholes)
  • Energy requirements for heating have decreased by about 10 - 15%, but the energy requirements for cooling are increasing in SE Alberta.
  • The trends reported here are likely to continue and accelerate, thus providing an indication of what we expect in the near future.
  • Historical temperature records are no longer a true indicator for the future, and society must adapt to the new conditions.

What is the difference between weather and climate?

The difference is time. Weather describes the atmospheric conditions over days, hours, or sometimes minutes. Climate is the average weather over many years. A climate normal is the average weather over a 30-year period.


What is a Climate Index?

A climate index is an annually calculated variable, such as the number of days with a daily mean temperature below -10°C, that allow the analysis of long-term patterns.


Trends vs. Variability

A Temperature Trend is the average change over time that is calculated for each climate index based on all the available yearly temperature recordings.

The trends presented here were calculated based on a Mann-Kendall Trend Test, a test particularly well suited for climate time series.

Variability is the natural annual fluctuation of climate indices from year to year. Generally, the annual variability is increasing. That is why we can expect more record cold weather, although the average climate is getting warmer.