One week left to #VOTE4CLIVE!

CLIVE_LennoxIsland_2mSLR_pluserosion_400pxTEASERCLIVE, the coastal erosion visualization tool created by UPEI’s Climate Research Lab and the Spatial Interface Lab at Simon Fraser University, has reached the FINALS in MIT’s CoLab Communicating Coastal Risk and Resilience contest. Now it needs your votes to help it win the Popular Choice award. Register to vote at the contest website.

Nearly 600 projects were submitted to MIT’s Climate CoLab for this year’s competition. CLIVE made it through several rounds of competition and broke through to the finals against two other projects. It is eligible for the “Popular Choice Award,” as determined by online voting, and for the “Judges Choice Award,” based on the project’s merits as determined by a panel of judges.

Voting is currently open and runs until September 30. Log on and vote to support this great co-initiative with SFU and UPEI!

The Summer of 2014: Hotter and Drier than Normal

Remember at the beginning of the summer when headlines across the country were saying that Prince Edward Island was in for a typical run-of-the-mill summer this year, and I was called upon to make a prediction. The Weather Network and Environment Canada said that the summer of 2014 would be “normal”; the Old Farmer’s Almanac said “warmer and wetter”; I said “warmer and drier”; and I had my colleague flip a coin (to demonstrate the integration of probability into the science of forecasting) who said it would be “colder and wetter”. Well, the observations are now recorded – the summer of 2014 was warmer and drier than normal.

Normally, a PEI summer (the months of June, July and August) has an average temperature of 17.6 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? Well, let the record show that the summer of 2014 was about 0.8 degrees Celsius warmer than normal (even warmer than 2013) and about 10 percent drier than normal. Less than 1 degree Celsius warmer may not seem like much, but we must remember that the average global temperatures were only 6 degrees Celsius cooler during the last ice age when we had kilometres of glacier ice above our heads in North America. There were 15 extreme hot days during the summer of 2014, three more extreme days than the summer of 2013. “Extreme hot days” are defined by Occupational Health Canada as those days when the maximum temperature exceeds 27.5 degrees Celsius above which it is recommended that outdoor workers have a break every hour.

The summer weather continued to play havoc with our lives this year. Canada’s Governor General David Johnston, on P.E.I. for four days in June to mark the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference, missed the morning scheduled events of the first day due to the wet and foggy weather that wouldn’t allow his plane to land on time. Post-tropical storm Arthur was the big weather story of the summer with strong winds sinking three boats in the yacht club in downtown Charlottetown, and cutting power to roughly 5,000 Maritime Electric customers. The storm caused the cancelling of all of the Saturday night performances of the Cavendish Beach Music Festival when travel woes grounded country-music stars Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker. And the PEI 2014 Celebration Zone at Confederation Landing in Charlottetown was closed the day following the storm while staff assessed the site for damage. Arthur also caused some crop damage to the Island’s ripe strawberries by the wind pushing the stems into the fruit. And while one of P.E.I.’s piping plover nests was lost in the storm due to flooding, these endangered species fared better than feared with all of the chicks surviving in the other nests.

The summer weather also brought some positive things. The approximately 200 blueberry farmers on P.E.I. had a bumper crop due to the heat this summer with a sizable yield of larger-than-usual berries. Tourism operators with the Harbour Hippo welcomed the summer’s warmth in July as they recorded sold out tours beginning in July. And several pool and hot tub companies on P.E.I. continued record sales from last year fuelled by this July’s humid weather.

As the sunshine and warmth turn to grey skies and cold, remember the summer of 2014 as one of warmth and dryness. And keep our fingers crossed as December approaches that the winter will not be as severely cold and snowy as last year.

. CLIVE, the coastal erosion visualization tool created by UPEI’s Climate Research Lab and the Spatial Interface Lab at Simon Fraser University, has reached the FINALS in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s CoLab Communicating Coastal Risk and Resilience contest. Now it needs your votes to help it win the Popular Choice award. Register to vote at the  contest website (http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/1300801/planId/1309316). Nearly 600 projects were submitted to MIT’s Climate CoLab for this year’s competition. CLIVE made it through several rounds of competition and broke through to the finals against two other projects. It is eligible for the “Popular Choice Award,” as determined by online voting, and for the “Judges Choice Award,” based on the project’s merits as determined by a panel of judges. Voting is currently open and runs until September 30. Log on and vote to support this great initiative!

. 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

Get voting! CLIVE reaches FINALS in an MIT competition

CLIVE_LennoxIsland_2mSLR_pluserosion_400pxTEASER

CLIVE, the coastal erosion visualization tool created by UPEI’s Climate Research Lab and the Spatial Interface Lab at Simon Fraser University, has reached the FINALS in MIT’s CoLab Communicating Coastal Risk and Resilience contest. Now it needs your votes to help it win the Popular Choice award. Register to vote at the contest website.

Nearly 600 projects were submitted to MIT’s Climate CoLab for this year’s competition. CLIVE made it through several rounds of competition and broke through to the finals against two other projects. It is eligible for the “Popular Choice Award,” as determined by online voting, and for the “Judges Choice Award,” based on the project’s merits as determined by a panel of judges.

Voting is currently open and runs until September 30. Log on and vote to support this great co-initiative with SFU and UPEI!

 

 

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.