Alberta Climate Records


Visualizing temperature change from 1950 - 2010

The natural state of Alberta

The vast landscape of Alberta experiences a wide range of temperature and precipitation trends, resulting in rich ecological diversity.

The province's 6 natural regions and 21 subregions are defined by distinct natural characteristics which have evolved from each region's geological composition and climate history.

Learn more about Alberta's Natural Regions at learnalberta.ca or in this comprehensive document.

Daily temperature recordings

Since 1950, climate stations across Alberta have been logging daily temperture recordings.

These recordings allow scientists to measure the number of days-per-year that meet particular highs, lows, and sustained averages (variables known as Climate Indices).

Climate data trend analysis

Dr. Stefan Kienzle and his lab at the University of Lethbridge conducted a trend analysis of the data to discover how temperatures have been gradually changing across Alberta since 1950.

Explore the data

Through this application you can explore temperature trends and variability over 61 years for 6,834 locations in Alberta.

Each cell on the map is a 10 x 10 km region with data for six climate indices: growing season, heat waves, days over 25°C, frost days, full days below 0°C, and days below -25°C.

 

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About

The Alberta Climate Records website was developed by Christine Clark and Dr. Stefan W. Kienzle, Professor of Hydrology and GIS at the University of Lethbridge. The visualizations feature a dataset of nearly 5 million observed climate records between 1950 and 2010 for 6,833 locations across Alberta.

The Data

Raw climate data were provided by the Government of Canada.

Analyses of climate indices and trends was carried out by the Kienzle Watershed and GIS Lab, University of Lethbridge.

This project was conducted within the framework of two overlapping research projects. One project is the Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Extremes in the Americas (VACEA) project, which has the key objective of addressing a gap in the current understanding of the consequences of global climate change for regional climate variability and extremes and the resulting vulnerabilities of agricultural and indigenous communities. This part of the project was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The other project is the Predicting Alberta's Water Future (PAWF) project, funded by Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AI–EES). Students and research assistants from the University of Lethbridge have contributed to various aspects of this project:

The Website

Website design and development is by Christine Clark, with GeoJSON processing by Devin Sawatzky.

Trend and Variable visualizations were created with p5.js, an open source JavaScript Library based on Processing.

The map tiles are by Stamen Design, under CC BY 3.0. Map data by OpenStreetMap, under ODbL.


For more information about the data analyses, contact Dr. Stefan Kienzle at stefan.kienzle@uleth.ca

For more information about the website, contact Christine at hello@chrisann.ca

For all the code, view the project on GitHub: chris-ann/albertaclimaterecords

Data Sources

The Alberta climate indices were calculated by the Kienzle Hydrology Lab at the Department of Geography, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, under the supervision of Dr. Stefan W. Kienzle, Professor of Hydrology and GIS (stefan.kienzle@uleth.ca).

The research is aimed at providing systematic knowledge to satisfy the recognized requirement for "Better climate information for a better future", as coined by The Third World Climate Conference. With the recent availability of a Canada-wide daily climate time series, spanning the period 1950-2010 at a spatial resolution of 10 km by 10 km, a complete, long-term, and spatially consistent climate dataset became available (minimum and maximum temperature, precipitation). The dataset originated from the National Land and Water Information Service (NLWIS), part of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), who released the daily 10km gridded climate dataset for Canada for the period 1951-2010. Grid values were interpolated from daily climate station recordings (Environment Canada).

This climate database served as a keystone in the calculation of a wide range of temperature and precipitation indices. To cover the entire Province of Alberta, 6833 time series were analysed to detect trends for 43 climate indices using the non-parametric Mann-Kendall and Sen Slope tests. Many climate indices exhibit trends with confidence levels exceeding 95%, often exceeding 99%.

References:

Environment Canada, 2015: Climate Trends and Variations Bulletin – Annual for 2014 (https://www.ec.gc.ca/adsc-cmda/default.asp?lang=En&n=188031DB-1. Accessed Jan. 2016).

Hopkinson, R. F., D. McKenney, et al. (2011). "Impact of Aligning Climatological Day on Gridding Daily Maximum-Minimum Temperature and Precipitation over Canada." Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology 50: 1654–1665

Hutchinson, M.F., D.W. McKenney, K. Lawrence, J.H. Pedlar, R.F. Hopkinson, E. Milewska, and P. Papadopol, 2009: Development and testing of Canada-wide interpolated spatial models of daily minimum/maximum temperature and precipitation 1961-2003. J. Appl. Meteorol. and Climatol., 48, 725-741.

McKenney, D. W., Hutchinson, M.F., Papadopol, P., Lawrence, K., Pedlar, J., Campbell, K., Milewska, E., Hopkinson, R., Price, D., Owen, T. (2011). "Customized spatial climate models for North America." Bulletin of American Meteorological Society-BAMS December: 1612-1622

Natural Resources Canada, 2016: Regional, national and international climate modeling. (http://cfs.nrcan.gc.ca/projects/3/4. Accessed Jan. 2016)

Key Messages

  • 30 temperature indices and 15 precipitation indices were calculated for the period 1950 to 2010 for the Province of Alberta, including trend analysis with significance levels.
  • Results provide a compelling picture of overall warming and changes of weather extremes.
  • It could be confirmed that Alberta's climate is warming stronger than the global average.
  • Annual average temperatures have increased by 1 - 2°C in the South, and by 2 - 4°C in the North, with winters showing the strongest warming (up to 8°C), and summer the weakest warming (often 1°C or less).
  • Generally, and with few exceptions, the number of very cold days, when the minimum temperature falls below -10°C, has about halved across Alberta since the 1950s, and the number of heatwaves has roughly doubled.
  • With the exception of regions with high elevations, snowfall is being replaced by rainfall (because of shorter winters).
  • The growing season has lengthened by between 2 and 5 weeks per year.
  • Energy requirements for heating have decreased by about 10%, but the energy requirements for cooling are increasing in the extreme south-east of the Province.
  • The temperature trends reported here are likely to continue and accelerate, thus providing an indication of what we expect in the near future.
  • Historical temperature records are no longer a true indicator for the future, and society must adapt to the new conditions.

What is the difference between weather and climate?

The difference is time. Weather refers to conditions in the atmosphere over a short period of time. Climate is how the atmosphere behaves over relatively long periods of time.


What is a Climate Index?

A climate index is a time series of a variable, like whether daily temperature met a set value, that provide an indication of patterns in the climate system (Planton, 2013).


Trends VS. Variability

A Temperature Trend is the average change over time that is calculated for each climate index based on all the available yearly temperature recordings.

The trends presented here were calculated based on a Mann-Kendall Trend Test

Variability is the natural fluctuation of temperature recordings from year to year.