Calgary

Interactive website lets Albertans explore how the climate is changing in their own backyard

A scientist has created an online tool to give Albertans a better picture of the way climate change is affecting their own backyards.

'We are losing the normal summer day … it's really the swings we have to be prepared for'

A new interactive website allows Albertans to see just how much the climate is warming across the province, which could lead to more extreme weather events like wildfires or floods. (The Canadian Press, Alberta Climate Records, CBC)

A scientist has created an online tool to give Albertans a better picture of the way climate change is affecting their own backyards.

University of Lethbridge geography professor Stefan Kienzle told the Homestretch he first got the idea to create a website exploring the province's climate records after the federal government launched a database of historical climate data in 2012.

  • Watch the video embedded at the bottom to find out how you can explore what's happening with the climate where you live on the online tool and more from Prof. Stefan Kienzle.

He started a website answering some simple questions, which he's now built as an interactive way to explore past trends and peer into what could happen in the future.

The website allows anyone to choose a 10-by-10-square kilometre segment of the province, and explore 52 different climate indications between 1951 and 2017, as well as future predictions between 2041 and 2070.

The data has led to some interesting revelations.

"We discovered winters, as we all know, are getting shorter, we have less snowfall on the ground. And the summers are not warming as much as the winter has," Kienzle said. 

This index shows how much the mean annual temperature increased in Calgary between 1951 and 2017. (Alberta Climate Records)

Kienzle said he's found the number of cold spells and heat waves in the province are both on the rise.

"It's really the ups and downs," he said. "We are losing the normal summer day … it's really the swings we have to be prepared for."

The website shows that between 1951 and 2017, the mean annual temperature increased by 2.1 C in Calgary and 1.9 C in Edmonton, while portions of the Rockies have seen temperatures rise by as much as 3.9 C.

The number of frosty days each year in Calgary decreased by 16.5 in that time period. 

Global pacts like the Paris Agreement have set goals to limit temperatures from rising more than 1.5 C, but the site's projections suggest that Alberta could see increases in the range of 3 C in much of the province.

While Alberta doesn't need to worry about precarious coastline communities and rising sea levels, rising temperatures are still a big concern as the rising mercury increases risks of wildfires, flooding and extreme heat. 

"This is going to be more than normal, these extremes in future, unfortunately," he said.

Every single degree Celsius increase in global mean temperature means on average reduced crop yields of wheat by six per cent, rice by 3.2 per cent, corn by 7.4 per cent, and soybeans by 3.1 per cent, according to a 2017 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 

Kienzle said the data on his website allows farmers and growers to explore some positive outcomes, like longer growing seasons.

"However the downside of climate change impact is higher variability, more floods, more droughts, more hailstorms, those kinds of things … that of course is horrible for farmers and their yields."

If you want to explore what's happening with the climate where you live, or peer into the future, visit the Alberta Climate Records website.

University of Lethbridge geography professor Stefan Kienzle explains the new online tool he created to give Albertans a better picture of the way climate change is affecting their own backyards. 3:58

With files from the Calgary Homestretch and CBC Calgary News at 6

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