Note: Unless otherwise stated, this glossary of terms is based on that used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Fourth Assessment Report. Original text is italicized. Bulleted information adds context. Reference documents can be found at: [accessed March 18, 2010]

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Adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities. Various types of adaptation can be distinguished, including anticipatory, autonomous and planned adaptation.

  • Adaptation to climate change is essential by individuals and businesses which rely on natural capital - water, soils and biodiversity.
Adaptive Capacity

The ability of a system to adjust to climate change (including climate variability and extremes), to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

  • Through knowledge and information sharing this site enhances the adaptive capacity of Saskatchewan residents.

The total diversity of all organisms and ecosystems at various spatial scales (from genes to entire biomes).

  • Climate change acts in concert with other threats to reduce biodiversity. For example, exotic species can be favoured by a warming climate.

Is the average weather experienced in a given region over a long period of time. It includes temperature, wind and rainfall patterns.

Climate Change

Climate change refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. Climate change may be due to natural internal processes or external forcings, or to persistent anthropogenic changes in the composition of the atmosphere or in land use.

  • Adaptation is most concerned with how climate is changing rather than the cause.
Climate Model

A numerical representation of the climate system based on the physical, chemical and biological properties of its components, their interactions and feedback processes, and accounting for all or some of its known properties.... Climate models are applied as a research tool to study and simulate the climate, and for operational purposes, including monthly, seasonal and interannual climate predictions.

  • To determine future climates for Saskatchewan, Barrow (2009) used the results from GCM experiments undertaken at fourteen different climate modelling centres from around the world.
Climate Normals

Climate normals or averages are used to summarize or describe the average climatic conditions of a particular location (Environment Canada, 2010).

  • Environment Canada's most recent climate normals are based on data from 1971 to 2000. For climate change studies, climate normals from 1961 to 1990 are often used as the base or reference period.
Climate Variability

Climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, the occurrence of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all spatial and temporal scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability may be due to natural internal processes within the climate system (internal variability), or to variations in natural or anthropogenic external forcing (external variability).

  • Increased climatic variability is one of the most important impacts of climate change on the prairies.
Continental Climate

Climate of middle of land mass: the climate characteristic of the interior of a continent, with hot summers, cold winters, and little rainfall (Encarta® World English Dictionary, 2009 Microsoft Corporation)


The number of degrees that the mean daily temperature is either above or below 18°C.

Ecoregion and Ecozone

Ecoregions and Ecozones are part of an ecological land classification system that classifies and delineates ecologically distinctive landscape areas. An ecozone is at the top of the ecological hierarchy and defines a major physiographic feature (e.g. the Canadian Shield; the Prairie) and an ecoregion is a subdivision of the ecozone and is characterized by distinctive climatic zones or regional landforms (e.g. Cypress Upland) (Acton et al, 1998).

  • Saskatchewan has 4 Ecozones and 11 Ecoregions (CPRC, no date)

SK Ecoregions


The combined process of evaporation from the Earth's surface and transpiration from vegetation.

  • Temperature affects the rate of evapotranspiration. Therefore, despite likely higher levels of precipitation, a warming Saskatchewan is expected to be drier overall.
Extreme Weather Event

An extreme weather event is an event that is rare at a particular place and time of year. The characteristics of what is called extreme weather may vary from place to place. Single extreme events cannot be simply and directly attributed to anthropogenic climate change, as there is always a finite chance the event in question might have occurred naturally. When a pattern of extreme weather persists for some time, such as a season, it may be classed as an extreme climate event, especially if it yields an average or total that is itself extreme (e.g., drought or heavy rainfall over a season).

  • In southern Saskatchewan we can expect an increase in and more prolonged extreme events such as drought.
GCM (General Circulation Model):

- see Climate Model

Greenhouse Gas (GHG):

Greenhouse gases are those gaseous constituents of the atmosphere, both natural and anthropogenic, that absorb and emit radiation at specific wavelengths within the spectrum of thermal infrared radiation emitted by the Earth's surface, the atmosphere itself, and by clouds. This property causes the greenhouse effect. Water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), methane (CH4) and ozone (O3) are the primary greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

  • In Canada (1999), carbon dioxide is the primary greenhouse gas, accounting for 78% of overall GHG emissions (Climate Change Saskatchewan, no date).
IPCC - Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

The Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) is the leading body for the assessment of climate change. Established by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in 1988 (IPPC, no date).

  • In 2007 the IPCC was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mean Annual Temperature

The temperature at a given location averaged over the entire year.


A human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.

  • Replacing coal-generated electricity with wind is considered a mitigation measure since there are little CO2 emissions involved with wind-generated electricity.
PARC - Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative

PARC was established as a partnership of the governments of Canada, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba and mandated to pursue climate change impacts and adaptation research in the Prairie Provinces. PARC is affiliated with the University of Regina


Planting of forests on lands that have previously contained forests but that have been converted to some other use.

  • Reforestation is a management tool for forest management on marginal lands where natural regeneration is poor. It may also be used as an adaptation and involve new tree species better adapted to the new climate.

A plausible and often simplified description of how the future may develop, based on a coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about driving forces and key relationships. A climate change scenario is the difference between a climate scenario and the current climate.


Sensitivity is the degree to which a system is affected, either adversely or beneficially, by climate variability or change. The effect may be direct (e.g., a change in crop yield in response to a change in the mean, range or variability of temperature) or indirect (e.g., damages caused by an increase in the frequency of coastal flooding due to sea-level rise).

  • The Prairies are considered highly sensitive to climate change since the margin between moist conditions and drought is small.

Uncertainty can result from lack of information or from disagreement about what is known or even knowable. It may have many types of sources, from quantifiable errors in the data to ambiguously defined concepts or terminology, or uncertain projections of human behaviour. Uncertainty can therefore be represented by quantitative measures (e.g., a range of values calculated by various models) or by qualitative statements (e.g., reflecting the judgment of a team of experts).

  • Climate change scenarios help to reduce the uncertainty around climate change and impacts to facilitate adaptation by residents across Saskatchewan.

see Climate Variability


Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.

  • Rural and northern communities that are most impacted by climate change are often the most vulnerable since they do not have as much capacity to adapt as larger centres.