Alberta climate website lets you compare temperature and other weather changes since 1950

If you ask 10 Albertans how the weather has changed over the years, chances are you'll get 10 different answers — and a whole bunch of anecdotes. Now a University of Lethbridge hydrologist wants us to put aside our perceptions and compare actual data on a new temperature tracking website.

Alberta Climate Records analyzed daily temperatures from 1950 to 2010

This photo was taken on Jan. 25, 2015, when the temperature in Calgary reached a record high of 17 C. ( @TravelMrJ/Twitter)

If you ask 10 Albertans how the weather has changed over the years, chances are you'll get 10 different answers — and a whole bunch of anecdotes.

But now, a University of Lethbridge hydrologist wants us to put aside our perceptions and look at the actual data.

"It's really important for all of us to understand the difference between weather and climate," said Stefan Kienzle, professor of geography at the U of L.

"Climate is the average weather of many years, typically 30 years. So climate is really just a statistic."

By analyzing daily temperatures, Kienzle has created a simple, interactive online map that tracks temperature changes in Alberta between 1950 and 2010.

And according to Kienzle, the records tell us the province is getting warmer.

"The average annual temperature has increased in Alberta by between two and three degrees. Particularly in winter. The winters have warmed much, much faster than the summers have warmed."

Back in 1950, Calgarians experienced 20 days where temperatures dropped below -25 C  — but only five in 2010. The city also had 17 more frost days 60 years ago than it did six winters ago.

In January 2015, the mercury rose to 17 C in Calgary — causing the ice on the Bow River to melt and break up. (Submitted by Mike Morrison)

Land parcels reveal drastic growing season changes

Using weather station data dating back to 1950, Kienzle was able to break down temperature trends in 10-by-10 kilometre squares across the province. 

Stefan Kienzle is a professor of geography at University of Lethbridge and the hydrologist behind the albertaclimaterecords.com website. (University of Lethbridge)

Users can zoom into the online map to see how the growing season, heat waves, days over 25 C, frost days, full days below 0°C, and days below -25 C have changed over time.

Kienzle says Alberta's growing season has changed drastically since 1950. 

"The growing season length has increased between one and up to five weeks across Alberta."

He says the weather records also reveal that overall, the number of heat waves in the province has doubled since 1950 — and he doesn't expect things to cool down anytime soon.

"The trends we have detected will clearly continue into the future and potentially even accelerate further."

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