Edmonton

Edmonton blogger tracks temperature trends with weather 'nerdery'

Chris Nelson wears his passion for weather data snugly wrapped around his neck.

You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows

Edmonton weather blogger Chris Nelson poses with his 'chart scarf,' a knitted bar graph of Edmonton's historical weather trends. (Nola Keeler/CBC)

Chris Nelson wears his passion wrapped snugly around his neck.

The Edmonton-based blogger is a self-described weather nerd and has the scarf to prove it.

Much like his blog, Edmonton Weather Nerdery, Nelson's "chart scarf" tracks Edmonton's historical weather data over more than a century.

The scarf is a series of brightly coloured lines of blue, red and pink crocheted together. Each line represents a year of weather dating back to 1880.

Kelly Granigan, a fellow cyclist and knitting enthusiast, made it by hand as a gift to Nelson. 

"The scarf is just based off Environment Canada's weather data from the Blatchford Station going back to 1880," Nelson said in an interview Friday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.

"It's spring, so I'm hoping that I will be putting it away soon. It's quite a large scarf."

A mechanical engineer by day, Nelson has been doggedly tracked Edmonton's daily temperatures for three years.

Using raw data available through Environment Canada, he analyses weekly, monthly and seasonal trends.

His blog is a maze of line charts and bar graphs of daily lows and highs and record-setting seasons.

"I look at basic questions, like how cold has it been, how warm has it been. How often do we get really cold days?

"Last February was the fifth coldest February we've had since 1880. It looks at trivia like that."

'No expert' 

    Nelson's obsession with weather data started in the winter of 2015. By then, he had been commuting for more than a decade, walking or cycling seven kilometres to work each day.

    And as he endured the elements — often with his cold-hating dog in tow — he began to wonder about what would be considered a "typical" Edmonton winter day?

    He assumed the winters were getting milder, but was that true? Were things really so much worse when he was a kid? Was his memory of those brutal cold winters in the 1980s accurate?

    The city still has plenty of cold weather, but there are fewer of those days each year, Nelson said. 

    "I'm definitely not an expert. I'm just playing around with 130-odd years of weather records," he said. "If you don't like charts at all, it's not going to make much sense to you. But they are animated and I do try to provide some context, and hopefully one of them will speak to you."