Long-term Hydroclimatic Variability in the Lower North Saskatchewan River Basin


The scientific problem addressed by this project was the reliability and security of water supplies derived from the North Saskatchewan River (NSR). The industrial partner, Husky Energy, has heavy oil assets in the Lloydminster region of Saskatchewan and Alberta. These thermal projects rely on the NSR as a source of freshwater for steam generation at the oil processing facilities. Despite the apparent reliability of water supplies according to annual average flows, it is critical that we understand the factors that could limit water availability in the future for any stretch of time. This project was the first phase of a collaboration that will enable Husky to assess climate risks associated with long-term water sourcing from the NSR. The innovative science behind this project is the reconstruction of annual and seasonal river levels over past centuries and the stochastic downscaling of these proxy flows to weekly estimates. This paleohydrology captures a range of water levels, and modes of variability, that are not evident in the much shorter instrumental record. This natural variability underlies any shifts in the river hydrology caused by a changing climate. Therefore, understanding long-term natural variability is an important precursor to research on the impacts of anthropogenic climate change.

Climate Services Training Scan – Domestic


The objective of this project was to identify and understand the range of climate services training currently offered (or previously offered) in Canada and any gaps. We contacted federal, provincial and territorial government agencies; regional climate consortia; NGOs; and professional organizations. An online survey completed by these training providers collected information on the products and programs that they offer. In addition, we identified climate services training offered outside Canada and opportunities to learn from these international training programs. A major project report summarized the results of the online surveys and documented the current state of climate services training available in Canada. The results of this scan will be used by the Canadian Centres for Climate Services (CCCS) to develop climate services training based upon best practices that meets users’ needs and fills gaps in existing training.

Climate Monitoring for the Metis Association of Saskatchewan


The purpose of this project was to provide Limnos Environmental Consulting with a detailed description of local climate changes for their climate monitoring work with the Metis Association of Saskatchewan. We provided information on climate change from three sources: a) a paleo-perspective using tree-ring reconstructions of past climate variability and water levels, b) the instrumental records of temperature and precipitation, and c) climate scenarios for the next few decades using data from climate models.

Adaptation to Changing Water in Alberta


This project was a collaboration with scientists at the University of Alberta. Climate change will alter the spatial and temporal distribution of water supplies in Alberta. Understanding the dynamics of water flows and allocations is needed to enable timely policy decisions and better target investments in efficient water infrastructures and management facilities. This project sought to convey to stakeholders the risks and opportunities as a result of changes in future local water availabilities. Physically based modeling, using the SWAT model, enabled numerical simulation of the dynamics of basin hydrology and the response of hydrological processes to projected shifts in temperature and precipitation. Another approach taken at PARC was to examine the hydrology simulated by the Land Surface Schemes embedded in Regional Climate Models (RCM). This approach has the advantage of the coupled modeling of climate and hydrology thus capturing the hydrological response to transient changes in climatic variability; although the LSS is much less complex than the SWAT hydrological model. The use of complimentary approaches represents a robust solution to the problem of projecting future river flows. We were able to evaluate of the uncertainties associated with using different climate models and various formulations of the SWAT hydrological model.

The Castle River Basin: A Sentinel Watershed


This project was a collaboration with scientists at the University of Lethbridge. The project evaluated historical, contemporary and possible future land cover and climatic changes within the Castle Watershed headwaters of the Oldman River Basin (ORB), and quantified the impacts of these changes to river runoff and water supply. Synergistic field, remote sensing and modeling studies were conducted to understand terrain and land cover properties in this Rocky Mountain watershed and how they influence hydrology at a scale suitable for operational water resource planning. Researchers at PARC provided high-resolution Regional Climate Model projections to drive the ACRU physical hydrological model and parameterize it for simulations of future trends in ORB water supply. A complimentary goal was to provide baseline data on past and present hydro-ecological conditions within the Castle Watershed. Towards this goal, PARC scientists reconstructed the annual flow of the Castle River from 1150 to 2015.

Climate Change and an Ecosystem – Resource Adaptation Approach for Vulnerable Lakes in the Boreal Plain Ecozone

G. E. Melville


All major climate-change agenda efforts in recent years echo the need for more empirical scientific information about climate change and adaptation to freshwater ecosystem impacts. The adaptation research undertaken in this study begins the process of providing answers to the general question posed by resource managers and other stakeholders, “What options can we choose from to ensure the sustainability of the aquatic resources under our stewardship?” More specifically, the research results in a systematic methodological framework which resource managers could build on to determine adaptation options for specific lake types, as well as examples with respect to such options.

Research concentrates on the numerous larger lakes in the Boreal Plain which, although they are not necessarily “cold” lakes, tend towards the “cold” end of the temperature spectrum. The biophysical components of these lakes are highly vulnerable and, unlike some of the smallest lakes, which could simply disappear if climate change impacts were extreme, many of the biophysical elements of these lakes would probably continue to exist. The research in this study addresses resources in relation to climate change and adaptation at three levels of ecological organization. The three are lake habitat, intermediate levels in food webs, primarily small-bodied fish species, and large-bodied fish species.

This study focuses primarily on two large-bodied cold-water species, lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), both salmonids. All analyses begin under the umbrella of climate-related total allowable catch, or TAC, probably the most direct, integrative, management tool. Yield calculations per se have been based on relatively simple empirical models, in which fishery yields are related to summer thermal habitats.

Two lakes were selected for inclusion, Lake Winnipeg and Kingsmere Lake, Prince Albert National Park, as examples of a large but relatively shallow water body and a relatively deep system respectively. Lake Winnipeg deserves special attention simply because it is one of the world’s great lakes. Kingsmere Lake provides one of the few examples of a cold, dilute system for which one can investigate process and pattern, in an integrated manner, across a range of trophic or food web levels.

This study offers resource managers the only set of empirical harvesting models for cold freshwater fish which will conserve population structure in the target populations. These models are based on climate-related habitat features. These models substantially improve the precision of previous efforts; more importantly however, they add accuracy through the incorporation of conservation considerations. Continued use of any previous empirical models will ultimately have disastrous effects on all freshwater fisheries, if they haven’t already. The new climate-based TAC models are highly predictive for most lakes, but analyses indicate the model for lake trout may be inadequate for lakes <1000 km2 in surface area. More work is needed in the development of the lake whitefish TAC for all lakes, regardless of size, since sustained yields may yet be overestimated by the model developed in this study. As a great lake, we need to know far more about all aspects of Lake Winnipeg to manage it properly, regardless of the issue or context.

It is probable that we can best adapt to climate change through proper management of our remaining fish stocks. Additional management adaptation requirements include the development  of adequate fishery monitoring programs, few of which exist in the Boreal Plains Ecozone. In the short term, management agencies across the Boreal Plain Ecozone should implement a moratorium on lake trout fishing; this is the only real hope for the lake trout of the ecozone. The management agencies should also implement a comprehensive in-depth assessment of the state of surviving lake trout populations. Lake trout in the Boreal Plain are in a similar situation to that of large carnivores in the Rocky Mountains, where the fate of the “last of the last, not the last of the best” (c.f. P. Paquet) is at stake.

Climate Scenarios for Saskatchewan

E. Barrow


The most recent assessment undertaken by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reached a number of conclusions concerning global climate change, two of which stated that “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice, and rising global average sea level” and that “Most of the observed increases in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations”. These observed changes in climate are as a result of a global average surface air temperature increase over the 20th century of about 0.6°C. In contrast to these observed changes, global average surface air temperature is projected to increase between 1.4°C and 5.8°C by 2100, relative to 1990. This report explores how these projected global average climate changes maybe manifest in Saskatchewan.

Following recommendations outlined by the IPCC, scenarios of climate change were constructed using the most recent global climate model (GCM) results available. These three-dimensional mathematical models of the Earth-atmosphere system are driven by changes in atmospheric composition through the effect of these changes on the radiation balance of this system. It is not known how atmospheric composition will change inthe future, since it is dependent on a number of factors, including population and economic growth and energy use. Thus, GCM experiments are usually undertaken using a number of different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, spanning a range of possible socio-economic futures. For this study, results were available from GCM experiments undertaken at fourteen different climate modelling centres using three emissions scenarios (B1, A1B and A2). The output from GCMs is still not sufficiently reliable to be used directly as climate input into impacts studies so it is necessary to construct scenarios of climate change. These scenarios were constructed by determining the changes in average climate for the 30-year periods centred on the 2020s (2010-2039), 2050s (2040-2069) and 2080s (2070-2099), relative to the 1961-1990 baseline period.

For this analysis, Saskatchewan was divided into two regions – forest and grassland. Since thereare a large number of GCM experiments available, a sub-set of climate change scenarios was selected for use based on changes in annual moisture index for the 2050s. A total of five scenarios was selected to represent the smallest, largest and median changes in annual moisture index. For the forest region, these scenarios were from the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research, Norway (BCM2 B1), the UK Meteorological Office (HadCM3 A1B) and the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (MIMR B1), respectively, and from the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis (CGCM3_T47_2 A1B), the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, USA (GFCM20 B1) and, again, from the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan (MIMR B1), respectively, for the grassland region. For each GCM only mean temperature and precipitation information was available and so climate change scenarios were constructed for these variables.

Given the number of scenarios and variables being considered, this report has by necessity focused on annual results. Although the climate change scenarios were selected on the basis of changes in annual moisture index, i.e., on an index which combines the effect of temperature with that of precipitation, scatter plots of mean temperature change versus precipitation change were also presented. For the forest region, these scatter plots indicate that by the 2080s, annual changes in precipitation are positive in this region for all climate change scenarios considered in this analysis. For the 2020s and 2050s, a small number of scenarios indicate decreased precipitation, but these decreases are very slight – only around 5% in the 2020s and about 2% in the 2050s. Changes in mean annual temperature are positive – between 0 and 3°C in the 2020s, 1 to 5°C in the 2050s and between 2 and 7°C for the 2080s. The seasonal picture for the 2050s indicates that the largest spread in scenario results occurs in winter, with temperature changes between 0 and 7°C and mostly positive precipitation changes (up to30%). For spring, the picture is similar, although the temperature increases are not quite as large. The summer and fall scatter plots show some scenarios with larger precipitation decreases – as much as 10% in summer and around 5% in the fall.
For the 2050s, the forest region of Saskatchewan is projected to experience increases in annual mean temperature of between 0.5 – 1.0°C (for the scenario based on the smallest change in annual moisture index) and 3.0 – 3.5°C (for the scenario based on the median change in annual moisture index). Changes in annual precipitation are between 0 and +10% for all three scenarios for the 2050s, although the median scenario indicates slightly higher increases (+10 to +20%) along the western and northern boundaries of the forest region.
When compared with the forest region, the grassland region indicates larger decreases in precipitation, with decreases in annual mean precipitation still projected for the 2080s. For the2020s, temperature increases are between 0.5 and 3.0°C, between 1 and 5°C for the 2050s and between 2 and 6.5°C for the 2080s. Changes in the range of annual mean precipitation are similar for the 2020s and 2050s, between -10% and +25%, compared to between -5% and +35% for the 2080s. On a seasonal basis for the 2050s, scenarios projecting decreases in precipitation occur in all seasons. For summer and fall, about half the scenarios project precipitation decreases and by as much as 20 or 30%. The range of temperature increase is largest in winter and spring (between 1 and 6°C), compared to summer and fall (1 to 4°C).
For the 2050s, the grassland region of Saskatchewan is projected to experience increases in annual mean temperature of between 1.5 – 2.0°C (for the scenario based on the smallest change in annual moisture index) and 2.5 – 3.0°C (for the scenario based on the median change in annual moisture index). For precipitation, changes are similar across all time periods, generally between 0 and +10%. For the 2050s, the scenario based on the largest change in annual moisture index indicates that there are some areas of precipitation decrease (between 0 and -10%) in the south-east portion of the grassland region. The scenario based on the smallest change in annual moisture index indicates general increases in precipitation of between 10 and 20% by the 2050s, although these increases are slightly lower (between 0 and 10%) in the south-east portion of the region.
By combining these climate change scenarios with a high resolution 1961-1990 baseline climatology, it was possible to construct climate scenarios for Saskatchewan for minimum, mean and maximum temperatures and precipitation, as well as for the following derived variables: degree days > 5°C, degree days > 18°C (cooling degree days), degree days < 18°C (heating degree days) and annual moisture index for the 2020s, 2050s and 2080s. Results are presented as maps for the whole province and in more detail for Stony Rapids, Prince Albert, La Ronge, Regina, Saskatoon, North Battleford, Yorkton,Weyburn, Moose Jaw and Swift Current.
For the forest region of Saskatchewan, annual mean temperature increases over time at all three sites (Prince Albert, La Ronge and Stony Rapids). By the 2020s, the projected future climate range for La Ronge (-0.01 to 0.98°C) is as warm as baseline conditions at Prince Albert (0.58°C).For Stony Rapids, it is only by the 2080s that the projected annual mean temperature range (-1.91 to 0.4°C) approaches that of baseline conditions at La Ronge (-0.45°C). Precipitation is projected to increase across all sites and all time periods. Prince Albert (406 mm) and Stony Rapids (391mm) currently receive less precipitation than La Ronge (494 mm). By the 2080s, Prince Albert is projected to receive between 423 and 456 mm, La Ronge between 514 and 547 mm and Stony Rapids between 419 and 446 mm. There is a general increase in the number of degree days >5°C over time at all sites. This implies a lengthening of the growing season and/or the availability of more heat units for plant growth during the growing season. Increases in the number of cooling degree days (i.e., degree days above a threshold temperature of 18°C) are also projected. Baseline conditions currently indicate no cooling degree days at all three forest sites, but as early as the 2020s the scenario range for Prince Albert is above zero (11-72 degree days) while for La Ronge and Stony Rapids this is not the case until the 2050s. Heating degree days, however, decrease over time at all three sites, indicating a reduction in the need for space heating in the future. The annual moisture index gives an indication of moisture availability for plant growth. This index increases across all time periods for all three forest sites. By the 2080s, the index values are projected to increase by at least 1 degree day/mm at each site. The scenario range for La Ronge (2.96-3.77) and Stony Rapids (2.67-3.86) for this time period encompasses baseline conditions at Prince Albert (3.41).
For the grassland region, annual mean temperature at the seven sites increases over time such that by the 2020s, the annual mean temperature is atleast 1°C warmer than baseline conditions at all sites, and for Yorkton 3°C warmer (1.3°C compared with 4.3°C). By the 2080s, the projected annual mean temperature is at least double that of baseline conditions. Increases in annual precipitation totals are projected over time at all seven grassland sites. For degree days > 5°C, increases occur at all sites and all time periods. By the 2080s, the projected scenario range indicates that for most sites, degree day totals will be greater than 2000. Yorkton (1902-2177 degree days) and North Battleford (1877-2293 degree days) are the exception to this with only thehigher end of the scenario range being greater than this value during this time period. For cooling degree days (degree days > 18°C) all seven grassland sites exhibit baseline values which are above zero, indicating that there may already be some requirement for air-conditioning in summer. This requirement may increase over time, since the degree day values increase. For example, by the 2080s, the cooling degree day range at Regina (257-376 degree days), Weyburn (276-407 degree days) and Yorkton (169-251 degree days) is projected to be between 3 and 5 times greater than baseline conditions for Regina (69 degree days) and Weyburn (75 degree days), but between 14 and 20 times greater than baseline conditions at Yorkton (12 degree days). In contrast, projections for heating degree days (degree days < 18°C) are for a reduction in degree day totals across all sites. For annual moisture index, increases occur across all sites and all time periods. Yorkton and North Battleford currently exhibit the lowest annual moisture index values (3.4 and 4.2 degree days/mm, respectively). By the 2080s, these values have increased to between 3.9 and 4.7 degree days/mm for Yorkton and to between 4.7 and 5.6 degree days/mm for North Battleford. Moose Jaw and Saskatoon currently exhibit the largest baseline values (both 4.7 degree days/mm). By the 2080s, annual moisture index values are projected to be between 5.3and 6.4 degree days/mm for Moose Jaw and between 5.2 and 6.2 degree days/mm for Saskatoon.

Nikan Oti: Future – Understanding Adaptation and Adaptive Capacity in two First Nations

W. Ermine, D. Sauchyn, J. Pittman


This report provides an overview of the findings from the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaboration project, Nikan Oti: Future – Understanding Adaptation and Adaptive Capacity in Two First Nations. Two community case studies were undertaken with the intent of understanding adaptation and adaptive capacity and specifically how communities make adjustments to their natural or human systems that will minimize their risks and position them to take advantage of new opportunities that climate change may present. Three basic objectives guided this community case study: Understanding and enhancing adaptation and adaptive capacity in support of climate change decision making; to examine and enhance community adaptation strategies; and to enhance adjustments in human systems in response to actual changes in climate and environment. Primary research with Elders from the two communities reveals significant socio cultural changes impacting the people resulting in some degree of maladaptation as adjustments were attempted. James Smith Elders identified a catastrophic cattle die-off in their community history and the resulting introduction of the welfare system as having a domino effect that led people into dependency. The particular concerns of the Shoal Lake Elders were the changed behaviours of their youth but they also identified other issues that werea result of changing lifestyles in the community. Community resources such as philosophies, culture and a deep seated spirituality provide elements of hope that the people from both communities can facilitate adaptive strategies as the future is negotiated.

Simulating Climatic Impacts on, and Adaptive Management Options for, Boreal Forest Ecosystems in Western Canada

D.T. Price, R. Hall, F. Raulier, M. Lindner, B. Case, P. Bernier


Given that some impacts of climate warming are being observed across Canada (the current drought in Alberta and Saskatchewan being only one example), and that climate model projections indicate larger, systematic changes occurring within the next 50-100 years, sustainable management of Canada’s forest resources will need to take the effects of such changes into account. The most immediately observable impacts are likely to be changes in species productivity, competition and survival. Estimating these impacts will be critical for the development of adaptation and mitigation strategies.

This project attempts to assess these potential impacts on western boreal forest ecosystems using a suite of process models applied to detailed spatial data sets. In principle, the models must first be calibrated and tested by running them with data representative of current climate conditions for the study area. Only when this has been achieved with acceptable results should the effects of possible future climates be investigated using scenario data (ideally derived from global climate model simulations).

Current models of stand productivity generally employ traditional growth and yield (G&Y) modeling based on plot-level measurements of tree growth. Because local climate is a major determinant of environmental conditions at all forest sites, yield forecasts based on such models are likely to be inaccurate if appreciable changes in climate do occur. In the worst cases, the predictions of future yield could be completely incorrect. An alternative approach is to develop process-based growth models that use physiological and physical principles to relate stand growth to climate. The Canadian Forest Service’s Laurentian Forestry Centre (LFC) is at the forefront in developing and testing this approach. LFC is leading a project termed ECOLEAP (Extended COllaboration for Linking Ecophysiology And Forest Productivity) (http://www.cfl.forestry.ca/ECOLEAP), in which forest net primary productivity (NPP) issimulated mechanistically, and then mapped at the landscape scale using spatial data.

The project reported here, and referred to as ECOLEAP-West, builds on this initiative for two ecologically-distinct study regions within Alberta and Saskatchewan, respectively. Process-based models to estimate NPP were driven by spatial data sets including digital elevation, soils, satellite remote sensing, and interpolated climate. These NPP estimates were then compared to site-level productivity estimates derived from field measurements at permanent sample plots inthe Foothills Model Forest (FMF) study area in Alberta. The aim was to establish an acceptable level of agreement between the different estimates of NPP, and then apply the process-based models to the Saskatchewan study region. The end products should include tools to assess forest productivity under both present-day and plausible future climates, and to investigate the effects of forest management options to adapt to climate change. Preliminary results indicate that forest management can have significant effects on productivity, species composition and carbon sequestration.

Supporting Adaptation Planning in the Athabasca River Basin


The scientific objectives of this project were to develop scenarios of projected changes in the hydroclimate of the Athabasca River Basin (ARB) using innovative methods that incorporate the forcing and modes of variability in the regional hydroclimate and are applicable to adaption planning in the basin. The project provided our industrial partner, WaterSMART Solutions Ltd., with improved capabilities to deliver practical adaptive strategies for water management under climate change. The most innovative aspects of the proposed project were the novel methods of downscaling and processing of climate model outputs, such that we constructed scenarios of future climate that incorporated the internal natural variability; the most significant impact of a changing climate is a shift in water resources among seasons and years. Inter-annual variability and extreme hydrologic events, rather than long-term trends in mean runoff, present most of the challenge for managing watersheds and for designing and maintaining water conveyance and storage structures. We evaluated the capacity of high-resolution Regional Climate Models (RCMs) to simulate the full range of regional hydroclimate variability. Downscaled and bias-corrected climate data were applied to hydrological and land use models to develop future scenarios for the ARB.