PARC has been applying climate data in the Prairies to assist in risk management, adaptation planning, and advancing climate change and water resources research through targeted projects. By collecting tree-ring data from old growth stands (paleoclimate data) and refining climate models to smaller scales (regional climate models) to project future climatic conditions, we have reconstructed the streamflow of rivers, projected the future climate of ecozones, and explored potential climate extremes Prairie cities may face in the coming future.
The map below provides links via the red trees to feature projects which highlight how PARC has utilized paleoclimate data and regional climate models (RCMs). PLEASE NOTE: project links are currently inactive as project pages are being updated (April 28, 2021).
The statistical downscaling of output from Global Climate Models (GCMs) provides data of sufficient detail and quality for most applications of climate change projections. There are a number of Canadian – and international – data portals that provide climate change projections to meet these needs. Some notable Canadian examples include:
Canadian users of climate information are fortunate to have access to these excellent climate data portals to inform decision making in general, and specially adaptation planning. These data portals provide access to output from the suite of climate models used by the IPCC (i.e., CMIP5), and to runs of these models forced with three RCPs (2.6, 4.5, 8.5). Thus, use of these climate data from global climate models (GCMs) enables users to evaluate the large range of changes in climate variables projected by various models and assuming different GHG concentration pathways.
The above data portals supply users with very useful long-term climate change scenarios; however, some adaptation plans and climate risk assessments require climate data of higher spatial and temporal resolution.
Some climate impact assessments are based on output from hydrological, geological, and ecological models that require climate data at daily or sub-daily time scales, and on a fine spatial grid. These types of applications benefit from the dynamical simulation of climate at high resolution as opposed to the statistical interpolation of climate data from models that simulate climate globally on grids of 100s km in resolution.
PARC has derived climate projections for RCM data on a project-by-project basis, as the sponsors of PARC’s work (e.g., municipalities, private and crown corporations, and government agencies) recognize the value of climate model projections of higher-resolution than from other sources. For example, during 2010-2017, PARC was funded by Climate Research Branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada to develop high-resolution climate change projections for the Prairie Provinces using data derived from Regional Climate Models (Barrow and Sauchyn, 2017, 2019).
In our Regional Climate Model Applications pages, we demonstrate the application and advantages of high-resolution climate projections for climate risk assessment and adaptation planning.
PARC has developed a database of Canadian Prairie Provinces’ climate over past centuries. This product makes PARC unique among Canadian organizations providing climate services. It has proven to be a very useful complement to data derived from weather stations and climate models, and popular among stakeholders in our region since proxies of past climate capture natural and real – as opposed to modeled – variability. Because the monitoring of weather since the late-19th century has coincided with the period of greenhouse gas forcing of the global climate, weather data capture both natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change. On the other hand, proxy climate data that pre-date the industrial revolution record only natural climate variability. Recent research has demonstrated that the natural variability of prairie climate is a major source of uncertainty in the projection of regional climate change. Also, a significant question that occurs to both scientists and practitioners is the extent to which global warming has caused the regional climate to depart from the historical climate regime to which social and ecological systems are adapted.
To see how our Tree-Ring Lab has collected and used samples of old wood to reconstruct centuries of climate history, please see our Paleoclimate Reconstruction Page.
Collecting increment cores from an old Douglas Fir near Banff, Alberta