1 May 2018

So how's that global warming going for you, Canada?


Just over four years ago, I heard a presentation by a guest speaker at a seminar at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada), where I was lecturing for a semester.

The presenter (I no longer have his name) presented a model of climate change impacts that "simplified" the Earth from 3-dimensions into 1-dimension, i.e., a line that stretched from the Equator to the North Pole.

Using this model, he claimed that climate change would be "good for Canada" because it would bring warmer temperatures and greater moisture to agricultural areas. WTF?

I got into trouble for asking too many "hard" questions of this model, e.g.:
  1. How does it include problems of variation (not just averages)?
  2. How does it include trade disruptions and refugee flows from worse impacted countries?
  3. How does it deal with non-agricultural impacts
I also warned that the model could easily be abused by politicians (and oil lobbyists) looking for excuses for inaction. (Here's an example of model abuse in California.)

The reason for this post

A few weeks ago, I saw this photo on Reddit:

I was astonished to read a comment to that post ("168 days at or below zero"), but that comment appears to refer to average, rather than maximum, temperatures. So nothing to worry about, right? Not exactly, as these recent months (Nov-Mar, inclusive) averaged -10.5C, which is 1.9C lower than the recent historical average (1981-2010) [data.xls]. Although it may be hard to tell the difference between 15C and 17C, I'm pretty sure that nobody is interested in living in -10C instead of -8C.

Bottom line: It takes a lot of weather events until we agree that climate has changed, but Edmonton's winter does not bode well for its climate future.