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


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 or (902) 620-5220

Testing out one of the new UAVs in our expanding fleet

Our new DJI Phantom 4 is equipped with RTK (Real-time kinematic) positioning. This will allow us to collect centimeter-accurate data and make laying ground control points along the boundaries and at the centers of our study sites a thing of the past.

Living Shorelines Workshop

March 29, 2019 10:00 am to 3:30 pm
Holland College Campus, 140 Weymouth St, Room 319- 3rd floor

Featuring Kevin Smith, Maryland Dept. of Natural Resources, Director, Office of Restoration and Resiliency and Vincent Leys, M.Sc., P.Eng. Coastal Engineer, CBCL Consulting Engineers

Topics covered to include:
I. Shoreline Erosion (Causes and Outcomes; Natural Processes)
II. Shoreline Erosion Control Practices – Overview (Traditional Practices)
III. Origins of Living Shorelines (History, Definitions, How the Practice Developed)
IV. Philosophy of Living Shoreline Practices (Physical Processes, Shoreline Habitat)
V. Living Shoreline Practices (Sand Fill, Sills, Breakwaters, Innovative Approaches)
VI. Engineering Aspects of Living Shorelines
VII. Benefits (Fish and Macroinvertebrates, Erosion Protection)
VIII. Living Shorelines and Coastal Resiliency
IX. Costs
X. Monitoring
XI. Wrap up and discussion

The event is FREE and open to everyone. Lunch will be provided. Please register at

Drone info session

We were thrilled to host the Transport Canada RPAS (Remotely Piloted Aircraft System) team last week for an information session on the upcoming drone regulations, which come into effect on June 1st. Thank you to everyone who attended and helped make the event a success.

Below is a photo of Roger Smith, who works as a Civil Aviation Inspector for Transport Canada, speaking to the crowd last night at UPEI.

Info session on new Canadian drone regulations, Feb 20

Photo credit: Don Jardine

The UPEI Climate Research Lab will host an information session on new Canadian drone regulations on February 20, 2019 from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm in room 235 of UPEI’s Robertson Library.

The event features Roger Smith of Transport Canada and the Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) Task Force. The new regulations come into effect June 1.

The UPEI Climate Research Lab has done extensive work with drone technology, including studying dune systems, coastal erosion, shoreline armouring, wind turbine inspection, and waste management.

Space is limited. Please contact with your name, affiliation, email and mailing address to reserve your spot. All are welcome.

Please direct all inquiries regarding the RPAS Task Force or Transport Canada drone regulations to Transport Canada at (613) 993-0055 or

Sustainable Forestry Practices for PEI: Compatible Ideas from Europe

UPEI’s Climate Research Lab and the PEI Woodlot Owners Association (PEIWOA) will host a public talk on sustainable forestry practices to deepen our understanding of how climate change can affect forestry management. Dutch expert Dr. Gert-Jan Nabuurs will compare European forestry practices with the situation on Prince Edward Island. The event is Tuesday, November 20 at 7:00 pm in the Alex H. MacKinnon Auditorium of UPEI’s Don and Marion McDougall Hall. All are welcome to this free public lecture.

“On PEI, one can think of enhancing thinnings, using the low quality thinned wood for biomass and, at the same time, aim with the remaining stand for a higher quality timber—a kind of European style forestry,” said Dr. Nabuurs. “The benefit for the forest owner is not so much in the short term, but lies more in the longer term, with better stands. These operations and mindset have to change. That takes time. Access to forest is needed. Owners have to collaborate, and regular supply is needed.”

Dr. Gert-Jan Nabuurs is a professor of European forest resources at Wageningen University in the Netherlands and a senior researcher at Wageningen Environmental Research (WUR). His background is in European-scale forest-resource analyses and management under climate change. His work has both scientific and practical applications.

Dr. Nabuurs is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) coordinating lead author in good practice guidance for the its fourth assessment report. He will lead the agriculture and forestry chapter in the IPCC’s sixth assessment report, starting in 2019. He was assistant director of the European Forest Institute in Finland from 2009–2012. He is member of Ministerial Advisory Committee Sustainability of Biomass for Energy Purposes, advising on certification schemes and their applicability to Dutch biomass sustainability criteria.

Although this event is important for woodlot owners and silviculture workers, Dr. Nabuurs’ ideas and experience will also be of interest to forestry contractors, environment and watershed groups, climate scientists, resource managers, local governments and chambers of commerce. All are welcome.

Calculating Sea-level Rise and Storm Surge Flooding Scenarios

A Training Session and Q & A on Calculating Sea-level Rise and Storm Surge Flooding Scenarios

Presented by: Réal Daigle


Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 9 am to 4 pm
UPEI, Regis and Joan Duffy Research Centre (DRC)
550 University Avenue, Charlottetown
Cost: $100 per person (lunch is included)

Topics include:

  • Historical water level statistics
  • Science of sea-level rise
  • Methodologies and uncertainties in sea-level rise predictions
  • Regional sea-level rise estimates
  • Storm surge climatology and other flooding factors
  • Comparison of storm surge scenarios for PEI north and south shores
  • Exercise: Calculate storm surge rates

Space is limited. Please register at

Visitors may park in any of the General Parking Lots at no cost and without a permit from mid-April to mid-September. These lots are labeled as General Parking Lots A, lower B, D, and E on the UPEI Campus Map. (DRC is Building 28 on the campus map)