Weather Predictions for PEI’s 2022-23 Winter

By Dr. Adam Fenech and Dr. Xander Wang

As the Bank of Canada warns Canadians to brace for a rough economic winter, Islanders are also asking what the weather will be like this winter.

Environment Canada uses climate models to forecast seasonal weather. Climate models are mathematical equations strung together that describe the chemistry and physics of the Earth’s climate system. These equations are calculated using the largest computers in the country, known as supercomputers. Environment Canada forecast average temperatures for the coming winter (December, January, February) for PEI to be “above normal,” with precipitation (snow and rain) “normal” for the Island.

We all know people who swear by almanacs when forecasting the seasonal weather, so we took a look at the predictions from two of them. The 2023 Harrowsmith’s Almanac says the winter will “close to normal” when it comes to temperature but precipitation should be slightly “above normal” with many storms. The 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac has forecast the PEI winter climate this year to be “above average” temperatures and precipitation.

Our own research at the University of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Lab examining 150 years of weather observations in Charlottetown has shown that the climate has definitely become warmer and drier, especially over the past 10-15 years or so. And that’s where we put our forecast each winter – to continue the trend and be “warmer and drier”.

This inability to forecast seasons accurately is because the year-to-year climate is variable – 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, we flipped coins to see what Lady Fortune’s forecast for the winter will be – the result being “warmer and wetter”. So there are many forecasts made but only one will be correct.

2022-23 Prince Edward Island Winter Weather Predictions
SourceTemperaturePrecipitation (rain and snow)
UPEI Climate Labwarmer (+)drier (-)
Environment Canadawarmer (+)normal (=)
Harrowsmith’s Almanacnormal (=)wetter (+)
Old Farmer’s Almanacwarmer (+)wetter (+)
Chance (Flip a coin)warmer (+)wetter (+)


There is a consensus among the many sources pointing to normal or warmer Winter temperatures this year, but no agreement on the precipitation, although the majority points to a wetter Winter than normal. Over the past ten years of predictions, no one of these sources have been “bang on” in predicting the winter climate – the best has been following the long-term climate trends of “warmer and drier” but this only worked five out of the past ten years, and really missed the Island’s savage winter of 2015. Normally, a PEI winter (the months of December, January and February) averages -6 degrees Celsius and receives about 303 millimetres of precipitation, that’s rain or snow. The 2020-21 Winter was warmer than normal (-2.75 degrees Celsius, or 3.25 degrees warmer) and wetter than normal (407 millimetres, or about 34 percent wetter than normal). This matched the predictions of the Harrowsmith’s Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac; and for the first time in ten years,the flipped coins were correct.

UPEI Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation officially opened

The new UPEI Climate Centre at St. Peter’s Bay, Prince Edward Island

On May 19, 2022, the UPEI Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation was officially opened in St. Peter’s Bay, Prince Edward Island, by the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of Defence and Member of Parliament for Cardigan, on behalf of the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities, and the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency; the Honourable Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island; and Dr. Greg Keefe, President and Vice-Chancellor (interim) of the University of Prince Edward Island.

Announced in July 2019, the 45,000-square-foot facility houses the UPEI School of Climate Change and Adaptation, the UPEI Climate Lab, and state-of-the-art research centres of excellence, including the Centre of Excellence in Food Security and Sustainability. It includes research, innovation, and collaboration space; a residence for senior students and visiting faculty; storage and repair space for equipment and UPEI’s fleet of drones—the largest at any Canadian university; and common areas designed to encourage interaction and integration of the research focus areas.

The facility is a living laboratory that allows world-class researchers and graduate and undergraduate students access to nearby wetlands, forests, and coastal habitats directly affected by climate change. The site provides access to high-quality datasets, multidisciplinary research teams, outstanding graduate and postdoctoral fellows, and engaged industry, community, and government partners.

“This is a proud day for PEI and for Canada,” said Minister MacAulay. “The Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation will transform rural Prince Edward Island and set the standard for climate-change education and skills development to help mitigate and adapt to climate change on PEI, in Canada, and around the world. The Centre will also drive innovation in green technology, contributing to Canada’s transition to a low-carbon economy. We are committed to investing in education, research, and technology that will create a greener environment for generations to come.”

“The need to better understand the impacts of climate change, and build resiliency into every aspect of our society, will be crucial in the years ahead,” added Minister Petitpas Taylor. “ACOA is pleased to support the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation in St. Peter’s Bay that will form a cluster of discovery mobilizing expertise on climate change and adaptation that will spur innovation across Atlantic Canada and beyond.” 

“As Islanders, we are deeply connected to our land, water, air, and communities. There is tremendous opportunity to address the challenges of climate change by approaching it differently and collaboratively,” said Premier King. “Investing in the Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation is an important step that will build on our current efforts, while preparing future generations of leaders in climate change and adaptation to further reduce impacts to our environment.”

“The Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation provides an interactive environment where new knowledge, research, and development for climate change innovation and adaptive solutions are nurtured within a collaborative multi-disciplinary model,” said Dr. Keefe. “The Centre has a key role to play in the discovery of solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change on our coastal areas and the health of our populations and industry—solutions that are applicable beyond our shores. On behalf of UPEI, I thank Minister MacAulay, Premier King, and their respective governments for supporting this important facility.”

The Centre supports key learning programs including UPEI’s Bachelor of Science in Applied Climate Change and Adaptation, preparing graduates to continue the important work of mitigating the effects of climate change after graduation.

Adam Fenech, an associate professor in the School of Climate Change and Adaptation at UPEI, said the new centre will focus on climate change education and skills development to help mitigate and adapt to climate change on P.E.I. and around the world.

“It’s incredible because it’s a brand new climate centre that brings together research and teaching and industry partnerships looking at climate change impacts and adaptation. It’s designed to help us live with climate change, both its positive and negative impacts.”

The governments of Canada and Prince Edward Island and UPEI have invested over $14 million in this project through the New Building Canada Fund – Provincial-Territorial Infrastructure Component. The Government of Canada, through ACOA, has contributed over $3.3 million to establish the Centre of Excellence in Food Security and Sustainability, while land for the facility was donated to the University by the Flynn, Keenan, and MacKay families.

UPEI climate scientist featured in new book as one of Canada’s ‘Forty Brilliant Canadians’

Dr. Adam Fenech, associate professor in the School of Climate Change and Adaptation at the University of Prince Edward Island, is featured in a recently published book titled Inspiring Canadians: Forty Brilliant Canadians and Their Visions for the Nation.

Author Mark Bulgutch, an award-winning CBC journalist and producer, collected inspiring stories and ideas from forty brilliant and influential Canadians whose love for Canada compels them to make this country a better place for all. The book celebrates visions of a more sustainable, equitable, welcoming, and fun country, from Canadians who believe in the possibility of an even better future.

In the book, Fenech discusses climate change and the need to act immediately to reduce greenhouse gases and prepare for inevitable climate changes through adaptation. “We live our lives very dependent on fossil fuels, and it’s very difficult to transition away,” he says. “It’s a real challenge to undertake. Some say we Canadians shouldn’t even try because China is still polluting, and India is still polluting, and Brazil is still polluting. But we all have a responsibility.”

Fenech is celebrating his 10-year anniversary on PEI. He was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, the only Canadian-born in an immigrant family. He completed his PhD at the University of Toronto, worked for Environment Canada for 25 years, and came to UPEI as a climate researcher. He is married to a potato farmer’s daughter from western PEI.

He gives a warning about the impending climate crisis in the book. “We are fortunate being in Canada. We have a lot of land and a lot of resources. We can adapt. We can change things. We’re not migrating just to find food. But there are huge times of uncertainty ahead. All of the scientific literature points to the year 2050 as the year everything goes to hell in a handcart. That’s like tomorrow. If you think that’s an exaggeration, let me remind you that scientists are a very conservative bunch. None of the folks I know are fear-mongers. In fact, it’s the total opposite.”

But he concludes with a positive vision of the future: “It’s hard to be an optimist. My scientist brain says we’re doomed. But I have children. I may have grandchildren one day. If I say we’re doomed, what am I saying about their future? So, I force myself to be an optimist. There are those with vision and imagination and passion who are working on solutions. I do believe humans can get ourselves out of jams when we need to.”

The book is published by Douglas & McIntyre and is available at booksellers across Prince Edward Island.

Fenech has worked extensively in climate change since the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere in 1988. He has edited eight books on climate change. He has represented Canada at international climate negotiating sessions; written climate policy speeches for Canadian environment ministers; and authored Canadian reports on climate change to the United Nations. He has taught at the University of Toronto and the Smithsonian Institution for over 25 years, and lectures regularly at universities across Canada and around the world. He shared in the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for his work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. As director of the UPEI Climate Lab, he conducts research on the vulnerability, impacts, and adaptation to climate change. His virtual reality depiction of sea level rise has won international awards, including one from MIT for communicating coastal science. He maintains the largest fleet of drones at a Canadian university, including the largest drone in the country, which has a four-metre wingspan.

Bulgutch worked for CBC News for over 35 years, starting as a reporter and producer in Montreal and then lineup editor of the CBC National for 11 years. He produced news specials for CBC, including every federal and provincial election in Canada from 1995–2013. He is the recipient of 14 Gemini awards, four Radio Television News Directors Association awards, the Canadian Journalism Foundation Award of Excellence, and the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Gold Ribbon Award. His previous books include That’s Why I’m a Journalist and That’s Why I’m A Doctor (Douglas & McIntyre) and a national bestseller, Extraordinary Canadians (Simon & Schuster), co-authored with Peter Mansbridge. 

Worst-Case Scenarios of Climate Change are Playing Themselves Out Live Right Now

– Why the United Nations Report has Missed Its Mark

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

Last week saw the release of a major international climate change report authored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of experts convened by the United Nations that has become the leading scientific authority on climate change. The report titled Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was written by 270 researchers from 67 countries over the past seven years, and is the most detailed look to-date at the threats posed by global warming. The results in its over 3,500 pages are striking: The dangers of climate change are mounting so rapidly that they could soon overwhelm the ability of both nature and humanity to adapt, creating a harrowing future in which floods, fires and famine displace millions, species disappear and the planet is irreversibly damaged.

I wish those were the authors words. Instead, pages and pages of bureaucratic language are given that even the most interested of us find difficult to read and comprehend. The opening “headline” from a summary of the report is: Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability. Yawn! Has the time come for the IPCC to abandon its work if the results of seven years are as impotent as this summary of the report?

I am a climatologist who has been in the climate change business for almost thirty-four years. Why are we still receiving such ineffectual statements from the United Nations while Nature is screaming at us to take notice of how climate change is disrupting our lives? Here is what a quick scan of my memory from the past year tells us:

  1. Ontario forest fires burned a record area of land (more than 793,000 hectares of land – almost one-and-a-half times the size of Prince Edward island) this past summer, more than in any year in history.
  2. The June heat wave in British Columbia has been called the “deadliest weather event in Canadian history” where a record breaking heat dome brought temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius in many parts of the province directly causing the deaths of 570 people. The town of Lytton was wiped off the map, destroyed by the intense heat from forest fires.
  3. The North American western drought is now the driest in at least 1,200 years and shows no signs of easing. Attribution science tells us that 42% of the drought conditions are directly from human-caused warming.
  4. In November, one of the most severe natural disasters to strike British Columbia in a generation forced 20,000 people to abandon their homes after a major storm caused flooding and mudslides.

All of these are worst-case climate change scenarios playing themselves out live right now, while the United Nations pulls out its thesaurus to come up with one more boring descriptor after another. I am frightened by what I am witnessing out in the real world, and maybe we all should consider that more closely. The IPCC report notes that nearly half of the world’s population is already vulnerable to increasingly dangerous climate impacts. Climate change is changing the baseline conditions toward a hotter, drier state meaning that conditions will only get worse. “There is a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future on the planet,” says Hans-Otto Portner, co-chair of the IPCC working group that generated the report. “We need to live up to that challenge.”

PEI’s Top 3 Weather Stories of 2021

By Dr. Adam Fenech and Dr. Xander Wang

It was a good news story on Prince Edward Island when it came to the weather over the past year. Here are our Top 3 PEI Weather Stories for 2021.

Number 3 – Record Heat in June

There were maximum temperature records set for June 8 in Charlottetown (30.6 degrees Celsius (°C) breaking the previous record of 27.8°C in 1922), Summerside (32.7°C breaking the previous record of 27.2°C in 1973) and St. Peters Bay (29.9°C breaking the previous record of 28.3°C set in 2017). These are the highest recorded maximum temperatures on this day in recorded history going back almost 150 years. What is striking is that these records are not simply breaking the old ones by minor amounts but often by 1, 2 or even 5 degrees warmer!

Number 2 – Little to No Sea Ice

There was very little ice formation around Prince Edward Island in 2021 what with higher normal average winter temperatures and fewer than normal major storms. There has been a trend toward less ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over the last 30 years, but it was particularly striking in 2021. Even the first ever Ice Walk, a silent vigil across the bridge linking the Lennox Island community to the northwest shore of Prince Edward Island to remember the dangerous journey across the ice the Mi’kmaq had to take until the bridge was built in 1973, took place on the causeway because the ice wasn’t formed and solid enough.

Number 1 – A Bountiful Harvest Season

After two previous bad harvest years, what with the hot and dry summer of 2020, and post-tropical storm Dorian in 2019, the weather of 2021 provided much better growing conditions for Prince Edward Island crops.

“A huge crop of corn” is how Matt Barrett of Oceanbrae Farms in Belmont, Lot 16, described it. At Colin MacNevin’s family farm in DeSable, the corn was described as one of the strongest crops in years: “one of the best crops I’ve ever grown.”

Robert Godfrey, former executive director of the PEI Federation of Agriculture called the favourable weather in the spring and early summer led to “the best hay crop farmers have seen in the last four or five years, both in terms of quality, in terms of yield.”

Strawberry farmers had ideal growing conditions of a warm spring with little frost and timely rain that brought on an early harvest referred to as “the best crop of berries we’ve seen in years.”

And after a couple of difficult seasons, the 2021 PEI potato crop was called “one of the best in decades.” Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, said: “This year’s potato crop in Prince Edward Island is one of the best that growers have grown for many generations. A beautiful crop this year.” Now if we can only get them to market!

I have often said that there will be winners and losers under climate change. In the short term, Prince Edward Island stands to benefit from the warmer and drier conditions that climate change brings. And this past year of 2021 revealed just how these type of climate conditions might influence Prince Edward Island’s ecology and economy. It is a future of record high temperatures, less ice formation, and bountiful agricultural crops.

Calling for Input – Siting PEI Climate Stations

The UPEI Climate Lab welcomes suggestions for siting climate stations across PEI. A presentation is attached to view the climate station network objectives and criteria. Applications for having a climate station installed at a location of interest can be found attached as well.

http://projects.upei.ca/climate/files/2021/04/ACOA-Food-Security-Stakeholder-Consult-1.pdf

http://projects.upei.ca/climate/files/2021/04/Application-for-Climate-Station.pdf

Cheers, Adam

PEI Climate Stories Now Available from YouTube Channel

A new series of short videos exploring the impacts of climate change on Prince Edward Island and the adaptation strategies being implemented by Prince Edward Islanders called PEI Climate Stories has been released and can be found here at http://climatesense.ca.

PEI Climate Stories presents:

  • Eric Gilbert from Victoria-by-the-Sea, Prince Edward Island talking about the environmental challenges and adaptation approaches to climate change at a small, rural municipality.
  • Mike Cassidy voicing his dread about the coastal erosion on Prince Edward Island and its insidious impacts on his cottage property.
  • Shepherd Adam MacLean speaking about the challenges and opportunities from climate change facing his sheep farming at South Melville, Prince Edward Island.
  • Mike Cassidy sharing his experience in growing the Haskap berry, a more environmentally friendly alternative table berry for Islander farmers.

The short videos have been produced by the University of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Lab, together with ClimateSense, an organization committed to providing climate change adaptation learning and development specific to Prince Edward Island.

As Adam Fenech, Director of UPEI’s Climate Lab says: “Prince Edward Island is certainly experiencing the impacts of climate change NOW, so these videos provide a good testament of the challenges and opportunities arising from climate change by detailing  Islander responses.”

ClimateSense Project Coordinator and video co-producer Ross Dwyer furthers: “PEI Climate Stories are Islanders talking about how climate change is impacting their way of life on this, and ways in which they are adapting or living with climate change.”

Four short videos were produced last summer with Jeff Eager from Hummingbird House Productions as the photographer and editor, and plans are to produce four more this coming summer.

PEI Climate Stories are funded by ClimateSense, a consortium of federal, provincial and university experts for providing training and education on adapting to (or living with) climate change.

Prince Edward Island’s Top 3 Weather Stories of 2020

By Dr. Adam Fenech and Dr. Xander Wang

In a COVID-19 year that we would like to forget, we have to remember the warm and dry weather across PEI. Here are our Top 3 Weather Stories for 2020.

Number 3 – Hurricane Teddy

The 2020 hurricane season was the most active Atlantic season on record with 30 named storms, 13 of which were hurricanes. One of the major ones this year was Hurricane Teddy, a large and powerful Category-4 hurricane (second-highest hurricane classification category on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale, with maximum sustained winds of 209–251 km/h). After making landfall near Ecum Secum, Nova Scotia, on September 23 as a post-tropical storm, Teddy moved across Nova Scotia before passing east of PEI in the early afternoon. While the storm’s impact was less than expected in terms of power outages and damage, Teddy brought heavy rain (between 40 and 70 millimetres) and gusty winds (ranging from 50 to 80 km/h) to a wide swath of PEI.

Number 2 – Hot and Dry conditions for Farmers

This year brought a hot, dry summer drought that really took its toll on a lot of the potato crop across the province. Add an early frost, and potato yields (potatoes harvested per hectare) were definitely down this year, by 20 to 25 per cent or more on farms in central PEI, an area that received less rain.  On the positive side of things, reports of the quality of the potato yield are very good.

At one point in August, the Canadian Drought Monitor showed about half the Island – from Charlottetown to Alberton – in severe drought, with most of the rest of the Island in moderate drought with the exception of eastern Kings County, which was ‘abnormally dry.’ It was the driest summer Charlottetown has ever seen, and it was the third driest summer for Summerside.

Number 1 – Record Warm Temperatures

Given that 2020 is in a dead-heat tie with 2016 for the Earth’s hottest year on record, it should come as no surprise that the Number One weather story for Prince Edward Island is the number of days with hot temperatures. PEI temperatures were well above where they should be for many times this year. Sometimes, even the overnight lows were warmer than where the daytime highs were supposed to be.

It was a summer of breaking records for high heat, as well as heat warnings. Heat warnings are issued when very high temperature or humidity conditions are expected to pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion. For Summerside, it was the second hottest summer on record with nine days over 30 C. In Charlottetown on November 10, the thermometer climbed to 21.3 C, a record and also a remarkable 100th day where the temperature reached 20 C at the Charlottetown Airport in 2020. The 30-year average is 79 days per year.

These are the types of wild weather that scientists expect to be more frequent under climate change – extremes of heat, drought and rainfall. Is this as a result of climate change or weather variability? Signs are pointing more and more towards climate change.

Weather Predictions for PEI’s 2020-21 Winter

Image

UPEI Climate Labber Ross Dwyer flipped the weather coins and came up with a prediction of a Warmer and Wetter winter for Prince Edward Island this year.

By Dr. Adam Fenech and Dr. Xander Wang

It is that time of year again for our predictions about how good or bad the winter weather will be this year. As a recap, no one source has had a monopoly on predicting the winter weather well over the past several years. Everyone seems to have an opinion, some of them even educated opinions. Last week brought our first snowfall so I think it is time for the UPEI Climate Lab’s annual winter predictions for Prince Edward Island.

Environment Canada uses climate models to forecast seasonal weather. Climate models are mathematical equations strung together that describe the chemistry and physics of the Earth’s climate system. These equations are calculated using the largest computers in the country, known as supercomputers. Environment Canada forecast temperatures for the coming winter (December, January, February) for PEI to be “above normal,” with precipitation (snow and rain) “normal” for the Island. 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, they do not forecast as well.

We all know people who swear by almanacs when forecasting the seasonal weather, so we took a look at the predictions from three of them. The 2021 Almanac for Farmers and City Folk predict temperatures above normal for December and January, and below normal precipitation for January and February; the 2021 Harrowsmith’s Almanac says the winter will “be milder than normal (in the first half) and “start out dry but then will become stormier;” and the 2021 Old Farmer’s Almanac has forecast the PEI winter climate this year to be above average temperatures and precipitation. The Old Farmer’s Almanac is the one we are most familiar with 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. This “secret formula” has recently been described by Peter Geiger, editor of the Farmers’ Almanac, as “a mathematical formula that gets applied to sunspot activity, planet positions, the effect the moon has on the Earth, and those are the components along with the math to do the weather.”

My own research at the University of Prince Edward Island that examined over 140 years of weather observations in Charlottetown has shown that the climate has definitely gotten warmer and drier, especially over the past 10-15 years or so. And that’s where I put my forecast each winter – to continue the trend and be “warmer and drier”.

Over the past eight years, no one source has been “bang on” in predicting the winter climate – the best has been following the long-term climate trends of warmer and drier but this only worked four out of the past eight years, and really missed our savage winter of 2015. Normally, a PEI winter (the months of December, January and February) averages -6 degrees Celsius and receives about 303 millimetres of precipitation, that’s rain or snow. The 2019-20 Winter was warmer than normal (-4.6 degrees Celsius, or 1.4 degrees warmer) and drier than normal (250 millimetres, or about 17 percent drier than normal). This matched my prediction, but no one else predicted “warmer and drier.”

This inability to forecast seasons accurately is because the year-to-year climate is variable – 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, my new colleague at the UPEI Climate Lab, Ross Dwyer, flipped coins to see what Lady Fortune’s forecast for the winter will be – the result being “warmer and wetter”. So there are many forecasts made but only one will be correct. Predictions overall are unanimous for a warmer winter (6 votes) with undecided precipitation (3 for wetter, 2 for drier, and one average rain or snow) for 2020-21.

SourceTemperature Warmer (+) Colder(-) Average (=)Precipitation Wetter (+) Drier (-) Average (=)
Environment Canada+=
Almanac for Farmers and City Folk+
Harrowsmith Almanac++
Old Farmer’s Almanac++
Dr. Fenech+
Chance (Flip a Coin)++
Predictions of PEI Winter 2020-21

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