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.