CLIVE to visit 8 Island Communities in July

Dr. Adam Fenech, director of UPEI’s Climate Research Lab, will tour Prince Edward Island communities in July to give demonstrations of CLIVE – better known as the CoastaL Impacts Visualization Environment tool.

This tool allows users to manipulate a 3-D map of Prince Edward Island with a video game controller and experience simulated erosion and sea-level rise and their impact on our infrastructure over the next 90 years.

Dr. Fenech will lead discussions about coastal erosion and sea-level rise, and the risk to homes, cottages, roads, and communities.

Attendees will be encouraged to share ideas about how we might best adapt to these conditions, and through CLIVE, view local areas that may be affected.

Demonstrations and discussions will be held at 8 locations across the island, as follows:

Tuesday, July 8                       Victoria, the Old School House on Victoria Road

Wednesday, July 9                  Souris, St. Mary’s Parish Hall

Tuesday, July 15                     Abram-Village, Rec Centre

Thursday, July 17                    Montague, Wellness Centre

Tuesday, July 22                     North Rustico, Lion’s Club

Wednesday, July 23                Charlottetown, Beaconsfield Carriage House

Thursday, July 24                    Summerside, Silver Fox Curling Club

Wednesday, July 30                Alberton, Community Centre

Each presentation will run from 7:00-8:00pm, with drinks and light refreshments provided.

The events are sponsored by the PEI Department of Environment, Labour and Justice, and by the Climate Research Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island.

A Hurricane in July on P.E.I.? Isn’t It A Bit Early?

News of Hurricane Arthur heading towards Prince Edward Island this weekend and dumping from 50 to 100 millimetres of rain with winds up to 100 kilometres per hour has the Island in a bit of a tizzy. Several weekend events in Nova Scotia have already been cancelled or postponed in anticipation of Arthur’s landfall. Concert organizers on P.E.I. are watching closely. I’ve been asked many times today, “Isn’t it a bit too early in the season for a Hurricane to affect P.E.I.?” Well, July is not too early at all. A new student to the UPEI Climate Lab, Jerry Jien, has been examining the historical records for hurricanes and has come up with some interesting facts about how hurricanes impact Prince Edward Island.

When we talk about hurricanes, we are really talking about large storms known as tropical cyclones. Most of the typical storms that we experience here on Prince Edward Island are the result of weather frontal systems coming in from the west or from the north. Tropical cyclones, however, are storms that come from the south with a characteristic cyclonic rotation around a central core or “eye” of the hurricane, with low atmospheric pressure and high winds. Tropical cyclones are formed in warm tropical waters of at least 28 degrees Celsius closer to the equator. Heat is drawn up from the oceans creating a ‘heat engine’ of tall convective towers of clouds formed within the storm as the warm ocean water evaporates. As the air rises higher, it cools and condenses releasing latent heat which causes even more clouds to form and feed the storm. Most of these tropical cyclones are accompanied by lots of rain and storm surges along the coastlines.

The classification of tropical cyclones is determined based on the hurricane’s strength of wind speeds and the damage it may cause ranging from tropical depressions (wind speeds less than 63 kilometres per hour) and tropical storms (wind speeds from 63 to 118 km/hr) to several types of hurricanes ranked using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale from 1 (wind speeds from 118 to 153 km/hr) to 5 (wind speeds greater than 251 km/hr).

Jerry examined all 338 storms that have affected Prince Edward Island since the year 1851, that is, all tropical cyclones that have travelled within 500 kilometres of the Island, known as a hurricane’s “zone of influence”. He found that July is not too early for tropical cyclones to impact P.E.I. In fact, 7 percent of all tropical cyclones impacting P.E.I. since 1851 occurred in July, 4 percent in June, and 3 percent in May. Surprisingly, the earliest tropical storm on record impacting P.E.I. in any given year occurred in February of 1952! Most of the tropical cyclones occur in September (38%), October (24%) and August (21%) with a few tailing off in November (3%). We only have to go back to 2006 to find a tropical storm that impacted P.E.I. earlier in the year than Hurricane Arthur – June 15, 2006 to be precise which brought 26 millimetres of rain and wind gusts of over  54 kilometres per hour.

Everyone asks the question: “Will climate change increase the number of hurricanes affecting P.E.I.?” The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the global community’s scientific authority on climate matters, released its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) last year concluding that they were “virtually certain” that there had been an increase in intense tropical cyclone activity in the North Atlantic since the 1970s; and “more likely than not” that these intense tropical cyclones would increase in the North Atlantic in the late 21st Century. They did conclude that there was “low confidence” that humans had any influence on these observed increases in tropical cyclone intensity. Preliminary results from Jerry’s research have concluded a similar increase in tropical cyclone activity affecting Prince Edward Island (see graph below). Jerry will continue his Ph.D. work on tropical cyclones, and we’ll report any further findings at a later date. Decadal Changes

Note:

  • The month of June in 2014 was a little cooler (0.2 degrees Celsius cooler) than “normal” (14.5 degrees Celsius) and a little drier (10.8 millimetres drier) than “normal” (98.8 millimetres).
  • CLIVE, the Climate Lab’s visualization tool of sea level rise and coastal erosion, will be touring to eight communities across P.E.I. in July to view local areas that may be impacted, and to share ideas on how to best address the risk. See upei.ca/climate for full details.
  • Remember the 2015 P.E.I. Weather Trivia Calendar can still be purchased at peiweathercalendar.ca or at your local Murphy’s Pharmacy.

On the Road with CLIVE: PEI’s Coastal Erosion Visualization Tool

Dr. Adam Fenech, director of UPEI’s Climate Research Lab, will tour Prince Edward Island communities in July to give demonstrations of CLIVE-better known as the CoastaL Impacts Visualization Environment tool.

FINAL CLIVE Poster bleed tc E cmyk

This tool allows users to manipulate a 3-D map of Prince Edward Island with a video game controller and experience simulated erosion and sea-level rise and their impact on our infrastructure over the next 90 years.

Dr. Fenech will lead discussions about coastal erosion and sea-level rise, and the risk to homes, cottages, roads, and communities.

Attendees will be encouraged to share ideas about how we might best adapt to these conditions, and through CLIVE, view local areas that may be affected.

Please see poster for list of communities that CLIVE is scheduled to visit.

Weather Predictions for PEI Summer 2014

Headlines across the country have been saying that Prince Edward Island is in for a typical run-of-the-mill summer this year. Normally, a PEI summer (the months of June, July and August) averages 17.4 degrees Celsius and receives about 28 cm of rain. This represents the “climate normal” or the average of 30 years of data, in this case the most recent climate normal titled 1981-2010.  Last year’s summer (2013) was 0.5 degrees Celsius warmer than “normal”, and 30 percent drier than “normal”. But what about this year?

The Weather Network has stated that: “We don’t expect an especially hot summer” in 2014. Environment Canada agrees. Using climate models, that is, mathematical equations of the physics and chemistry of the atmosphere strung together and calculated using the largest computers in the country (known as supercomputers) to forecast seasonal weather, Environment Canada forecasts the summer of 2014 to be “normal” or no change from the climate normal above. I must mention, however, that Environment Canada’s seasonal forecast models are accurate for Prince Edward Island only 40-50% of the time (which is not significantly better than chance, meaning flip a coin and you’ll have the same odds of getting the forecast correct). Environment Canada’s seasonal forecasts are accurate in Northern Quebec, the southern Yukon and Baffin Island; but here on PEI, not so much.

We all know people who swear by the Old Farmer’s Almanac when forecasting the seasonal weather, as it has been forecasting seasonal weather since its first issue in 1792 (the time of George Washington’s presidency) using  a “secret formula” kept tucked away in a black tin box at the Almanac offices in Dublin, New Hampshire. The Old Farmer’s Almanac makes claims of 80% accuracy of their results, but studies of their forecasts show no better over the long-term than about 50%. The Old Farmer’s Almanac forecasts the summer climate of 2014 to be “warmer than normal, with the hottest periods in early to mid-July, mid- to late July, and mid- to late August. Rainfall will be above normal.” So warmer and wetter.

My own research at UPEI that examined 140 years of weather observations here in Charlottetown has shown that the climate has definitely gotten warmer and drier, especially over the past 15 years or so. And that’s where I put my forecast for the summer of 2014 – to continue the trend and be “warmer and drier”.

Climate is variable, though – it goes up and down. Climate is nature’s merry-go-round so it is often difficult to predict the coming season even with supercomputers, secret formulas or historical trends. To emphasize this point, I asked my newest Climate Lab employee, former drummer from Charlottetown indie rock band Two Hours Traffic Derek Ellis, to flip coins to see what Lady Fortune’s forecast for the summer of 2014 would be – the result being “colder and wetter”. Derek is bound to be unpopular if he is correct.

Derek Ellis

So to recap, the Weather Network and Environment Canada say that the summer of 2014 will be “normal”; the Old Farmer’s Almanac says “warmer and wetter”; I say “warmer and drier”;  and the coin-flipper, Derek Ellis, says “colder and wetter”. Who will be correct? We will have to wait about 90 days and see.

Notes:

. Both temperatures and precipitation were below normal for the month of May 2014 with temperatures almost 1.5 degrees Celsius colder than normal (I hear a collective “no kidding!”), and precipitation about 20 percent less than normal.

. CLIVE, the Climate Lab’s visualization tool of sea level rise and coastal erosion, will be touring to 10 communities across PEI in July to view local areas that may be impacted, and to share ideas on how to best address the risk. See upei.ca/climate for full details.

. Remember the 2015 PEI Weather Trivia Calendar can still be purchased at peiweathercalendar.ca or at your local Murphy’s Pharmacy.

 

Questions? Contact Adam Fenech at afenech@upei.ca or (902) 620-5220

Is your coastal property at risk from rising sea levels and coastal erosion?

Dr. Adam Fenech, director of UPEI’s Climate Research Lab, invites you to join in discussing the risks to homes, cottages and roads from coastal erosion and sea level rise in your community.

Dr. Fenech and staff will be visiting communities across the island in July demonstrating the Climate Lab’s latest innovation – CLIVE (CoastaL Impacts Visualization Environment) – a video game that simulates rising seas and increased coastal erosion on Prince Edward Island.

Attendees will be encouraged to share ideas on how best to deal with their vulnerability to sea level rise, and, through CLIVE, to view local areas that may be impacted.

Sessions will run from 7-8 PM. Drinks and light snacks will be provided

 

Victoria - Old School House (Victoria Rd.) - Tuesday, July 8th

Souris - St. Mary’s Parish Hall – Wednesday, July 9th

Abram-Village - Rec Centre - Tuesday, July 15th

Montague - Wellness Centre - Thursday, July 17th

North Rustico - Lion’s Club - Tuesday, July 22nd

Charlottetown - Beaconsfield Carriage House - Wednesday, July 23rd

Summerside - Silver Fox Curling Club - Thursday, July 24th

Alberton - Community Centre - Wednesday, July 30th

 

Jointly sponsored by the PEI Department of Environment, Labour and Justice, and the Climate Research Lab at the University of Prince Edward Island.

Why such a bad winter? Don’t blame the Polar Vortex

By Dr. Adam Fenech, UPEI Climate Research Lab

The PEI winter of 2014 brought the most snow in 42 years, and colder than average temperatures. But why? I have never seen so much discussion about the polar vortex, nor the blame it received for our cold and snowy winter. There was also discussion later in the season about climate change being the possible cause of our severe winter. So who is to blame? The easy answer is climate variability – climate is nature’s carousel that goes up and down so we should experience variations in our winters – some warm and dry, and others cold and snowy. But variability is the easy answer and too general to explain the winter of 2014.

Some people blame the polar vortex for our most recent cold and snowy winter. The northern polar vortex is a large region of air that circles the North Pole (counter-clockwise) in the high atmosphere dripping high colder air to the surface of the Earth. The northern polar vortex is kept in place by the northern jet stream, a west-to-east warmer wind that flows around the Earth between the upper and lower atmospheres driven by the differences between the cold north and the warmer south. Sometimes the northern jet stream meanders like a stream causing a piece of the polar vortex to break off and plunge to the surface over Canada bringing cold air and snow. This happened in Manitoba and influenced our Atlantic region. But is the polar vortex to blame for this winter’s cold? It is more a symptom than the cause.

Others blame climate change for our severe winter. I know this sounds counter intuitive as “global warming” is supposed to bring warmer not colder temperatures. But here is how the theory goes – rapid Arctic warming and reductions in northern sea ice will weaken the difference in air temperatures between the north (Arctic) and the south (mid-latitudes) forcing the northern jet stream to meander across North America as it did this past winter. I asked the proponent of this theory, Jennifer Francis of Rutgers University, at a recent meeting in Ottawa as to the evidence for her theory. She said that it is still premature to blame climate change as the jury is awaiting ten more years of monitoring and examination of the data.

We need to focus on the meandering northern jet stream to get at the cause of PEI’s cold and snowy winter of 2014. The United Kingdom’s Meteorological Service has put the blame on increased rainfall over Indonesia associated with higher than normal ocean temperatures in that region. This caused the Pacific jet stream to continually interfere with our northern jet stream causing its meandering (known as Rossby waves) or being knocked out of its usual place of trapping the northern polar vortex.

So to connect the dots – heavy and continuous rainfall in Indonesia with higher than normal western Pacific ocean temperatures pushes the south Pacific jet stream more north bumping into the northern jet stream forcing it to meander like a stream across North America allowing the northern polar vortex to drop further south into Canada. Boom-boom-boom and behold, a colder winter for PEI.

I suppose what is emphasized most by this discussion is how interconnected global processes like these are, how they change regularly and how they might be influenced by human activities in the long run. What I find most intriguing is that enhanced rainfall halfway across the world can have serious implications for our way of life here on Prince Edward Island. The world is certainly a weird and wonderful place.

Notes:

  • Our month of April 2014 was just below normal in terms of temperature (average of 2.9 degrees Celsius) and about 30% wetter than normal (135 mm of rain and snow).
  • If you missed the launch of the 2015 PEI Weather Trivia Calendar, they can still be purchased at peiweathercalendar.ca or at your local Murphy’s Pharmacy.

 

 

2015 PEI Weather Trivia Calendar Launch Party

Link

weather

PEI history comes to life in this first ever PEI weather trivia calendar – 365 stories about Prince Edward Island weather and its impact on Islanders’ everyday life.

The official launch party is scheduled for May 20th at the Carriage House!

This calendar brings stories from North Cape to East Point, West Point to Murray Head – and all points in-between over the past 150 years. It features:

• All-PEI Weather Trivia for Every Day of the Year
• Twelve Beautiful Full-colour PEI Weather Photographs
• Stories of Prince Edward Island as Told by Our Weather
• Information About Tornadoes on Prince Edward Island: their Frequency, Location and Intensity
• Stories of Memorable PEI Snowstorms throughout the Past Seven Decades
• Maritime Electric Workers Reminiscences about Severe Weather
• Historical PEI Weather Stories from Samuel Holland (1765), the War of 1812, the Yankee Gale (1851) and the Ice Boats (1855)

The official release of the 2015 PEI Weather Trivia Calendar will be a public event held on May 20 from 7-9pm at the Carriage House behind Beaconsfield Historic House, 2 Kent Street, Charlottetown. A light lunch will be offered.

Online registration is now closed. Contact 620.5221 to check availability.

Calendars may be purchased online at peiweathercalendar.ca or at any Murphy’s Pharmacy location.

A Winter Not Seen for 42 Years

By Dr. Adam Fenech, Director, UPEI Climate Research Lab

Last week PEI saw a “mini White Juan” storm that brought 48.5 centimetres (cm) of snow measured at Charlottetown airport.  White Juan refers to the brutal blizzard of February 19, 2004 nicknamed after Hurricane Juan, a storm that hit PEI on September 29, 2003 with wind gusts up to 140 km/h causing flooding, uprooting of trees and infrastructure damage in the Charlottetown Harbour. White Juan brought 120 km/h winds and 74.4 cm of snow at Charlottetown which remains the maximum 24-hour total since records began. Last week’s storm was a mini-version with lighter winds (98 km/h) and less snow, but it still reminds us of our vulnerability to extreme cold weather. Good preparations and planning helped PEI  emerge without too many tragedies this past week. Community leaders should be commended for their work in getting the message out to take this storm seriously.

Last week’s storm seems to have been one of many during this particularly cold and stormy winter of 2014. Over the past thirty years, there has been a definite downward trend in the amount of snow that PEI has received, but not this winter. We have to go back 42 years to find a year with more snow. If we consider the snowfall months to be November, December, January, February and March, then this year’s snowfall has been about 417 cm of the white stuff, the most since 425 cm fell in 1972.  On average, the snowfall this winter season has been almost 60% more than the normal, or what is expected. This year’s snowfall has been particularly jarring as the past two winters have been very dry indeed. And yes, this winter has been colder than normal by almost 1.5 degrees Celsius.

The winter of 1972 was a much different winter than this year’s. By the end of March, 1972 had 80 days of snowfall, while this year PEI has had only 47 days with snowfall. By the end of March, the winter of 1972 had many days of small snowstorms with none above 25 cm, while this year PEI has had four major snowstorms on December 22 (27 cm), January 22 (37.4 cm), February 19 (27.8 cm) and March 26 (48.5 cm). The winter of 1972 went on to have 531 cm of snow once the months of April and May were added to the total. I hope that the winter of 2014 does not have any more surprises for PEI.

And before you curse the winter, after you have shovelled this recent back-breaking load of snow off your driveway, remember that a cold and snowy winter can be good for the environment and economy. Some PEI businesses enjoyed a financial boost thanks to the early winter weather in December 2013. Businesses that offer sleigh and wagon rides looked at this snowfall as an early Christmas present, as their sales figures jumped about 50 per cent over the previous December. Brookvale Ski Park opened before Christmas for the first time in at least 10 years and automobile towing businesses saw an increase of 20-30 per cent from normal due to the snow.

Snow is also necessary for farmers.  The snow blankets the fields so that when it all melts in the spring, the fields are properly irrigated and ready for planting.  Certain crops such as the fruits and berries also need snow cover to provide insulation from extreme cold.  When these crops are exposed to the elements, they become vulnerable to frost which can kill the crop outright. If you hate mosquitoes, you should probably celebrate this awful winter as mosquito populations should be reduced by the severe cold, too. While a sustained cold snap won’t wipe out these pests, it can kill some larvae and slow the bugs’ spread.

Note: Don Jardine and I have put together over 365 weather trivia stories for a calendar titled “150 Years of Prince Edward Island Weather”. From humorous tales of pigs swimming down the street after their barn flooded during the Kennedy Inaugural Storm of 1961 to the tragedy of the Yankee Gale of 1851 where one hundred fisherman (mainly Americans) were drowned on PEI’s north shore, the PEI Weather Trivia Calendar is bound to meet the needs of the weather junkie in you. Watch your bookstores as it is being printed for release in May.

Questions? Contact Adam Fenech at afenech@upei.ca or (902) 620-5220

Yes, Mr. Premier, Your Province Is Shrinking!

By Dr. Adam Fenech, Director, Climate Lab, University of Prince Edward Island

The challenges to Prince Edward Island in addressing climate change are many – perhaps the most important being the impact of coastal erosion through storm surges and high water levels. We know, for example, that shorelines across PEI often experience erosion – a wearing away of the land by water, waves, ice, and wind. It is anticipated that climate change will bring more intense storms, rising seas and reduced sea ice coverage (which normally protects the shore from wind and waves). Coastal erosion will continue and likely become more severe, threatening public and private infrastructure at great economic cost. But by how much?

Last week, the Climate Research Lab at UPEI, in partnership with Dr. Nick Hedley of Simon Fraser University, launched a new tool for understanding the threat of coastal erosion, sea level rise and storm surges to Prince Edward Island. CoastaL Impacts Visualization Environment, known as CLIVE, is a video game programmed by two of our students – Alex Chen and Andrew Doiron – that uses a digital elevation model (DEM) together with high resolution aerial photos to provide a three dimensional landscape to depict scenarios of past and future environmental change. Yes, a video game; albeit a serious one. CLIVE is an example of an emerging approach to activating communities to respond to future climate changes through the use of visualization techniques.

CLIVE allows users to fly over the Island using a game controller, and to trigger the raising or lowering of sea levels to examine which areas of PEI are vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. Also immersed in the science that built CLIVE are the results from coastal change studies conducted over the past few years. Tim Webster from the Nova Scotia College of Geographic Sciences, and Carl Brydon from PEI’s own GeoNet Technologies, conducted a study a few years ago using aerial photos from 1968 and 2010 to examine every meter of PEI’s coastline. The study concluded that, on average across the Island, the annual rate of coastal change was 28cm of erosion (land wearing away or lost to sea). There were areas of accretion (adding land to the Island) but overall was erosion.

Wanting to know if this was significant, a group of concerned scientists including Carl Brydon, Randy Angus from the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI, Erin Taylor from the PEI Department of Environment, Labour and Justice, Steve Dickie from the PEI Office of Public Safety, Don Jardine, a private consultant, and myself conducted a further study examining the risk to infrastructure – roads, buildings, bridges – of future coastal erosion. The annual rate of coastal change was multiplied by 30 years, 60 years and 90 years for each meter of coastline to provide a sense of what PEI’s coast would look like in the future under current rates of change. The results are worthy of our attention.

Over the next 90 years, over 1,000 existing residential homes (about $160 million worth using an average housing price of $159,000), 8 barns, 7 gazebos and 42 garages are at risk from coastal erosion. Seventeen of our iconic lighthouses will need to be moved away from the shore for fear of damage. 146 commercial buildings, 5 waste water treatment settling ponds and even 1 wind turbine are shown in our study to be vulnerable. Over 50 kilometres of roads (about $50 million worth using an average rate for road replacement) are also at risk to coastal erosion. And remember, this study examined risk under current rates of coastal erosion. All of our knowledge tells us that coastal erosion will increase as a result of rising sea levels, lowering landforms (coastal subsidence) and an increase in coastal storms.

Not all coastal change is erosion. Our study showed that from 1968 to 2010, some PEI coasts grew about 15 square kilometres through accretion of land. Unfortunately, during that same time period, about 35 square kilometres were eroded, giving PEI coasts a total net, or overall, loss of about 20 square kilometres. While this represents only one third of one percent of PEI’s total land area, it is still almost 5000 acres, or almost half the size of Charlottetown. And it represents a thin band of valuable land around our coastlines. Our study results allow us to conclude that yes, Mr. Premier, your province is shrinking!

Questions? Contact Adam Fenech at afenech@upei.ca or (902) 620-5220

Coastal Erosion and Sea Level Rise – Preparing for Prince Edward Island’s Future

Join us on Tuesday February 11 at 7pm for the UPEI Climate Lab Lecture Series as Dr. Adam Fenech, director of the Climate Lab, presents results from recent coastal erosion research projects conducted on Prince Edward Island. The change in PEI’s coastline has been measured mapped and analyzed from 1968 to 2010. Buildings, roads and bridges have been assessed as to their vulnerability to future coastal erosion and sea level rise. Come see how our communities will be affected. Dr. Fenech will present the results of this research including the unveiling of a new interactive 3-D geo-visualization platform known as CLIVE. CLIVE allows stakeholders to interactively explore PEI’s coastline, and scenarios of future climate change, sea-level rise and storm surges. The presentation will take place in the amphitheatre of UPEI’s Duffy Science Centre. For more information, contact the Climate Lab at 902 620-5221 or climate@upei.ca.