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ECCC Scientists Analyze Long-term Climate Trends

With the release of Canada’s Changing Climate Report (CCCR) earlier this month, climate change is on the minds of many Canadians. Among the CCCR’s many findings, it noted both past and future warming in Canada is, on average, about double the magnitude of global warming.

To outline important ways that our climate has changed to date, ECCC scientists had an article published in Atmosphere-Ocean. Entitled Changes in Canada's Climate: Trends in Indices Based on Daily Temperature and Precipitation Data, their work provides an in-depth look at trends across the country when it comes to daily temperature and precipitation.

Climate trends

The scientists looked at long-term trends, in some areas dating back as far as 1900. Among their many findings, they noted:

  • Summer days (daily maximum >25°C) increased at most locations south of 65°N;
  • Very warm temperatures (95th percentile) have increased across the country, with stronger trends in winter;
  • There are stronger warming trends at the lower end of the daily temperature distribution than at the higher end (the 5th percentile has increased more than the 95th percentile);
  • The frost-free season has become longer; and
  • The growing season has become longer but there were less consistent trends when it came to precipitation.

The findings of this study are consistent with reporting on both temperature and precipitation in previous studies as well as with work at a global level by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

“This study improves our knowledge of trends in climate conditions affecting Canadians. The results are consistent with expectations based on a warming climate, and Canada has warmed substantially over the past century,” the paper states.

What does it mean for Canadians?

The increase in hot days and nights across the country could negatively affect human health and well-being. When it comes to agriculture, while a longer growing season could allow crops to grow further north, it could also introduce “new pests and diseases, as well as other challenges that could negatively affect agricultural sectors” according to the report. With fewer very cold days, energy consumption may decrease in the winter but increase in the summer, as the number of very warm days increase. The loss of freeze-thaw days in the spring could also have an impact on the production of one of Canada’s most famous exports: maple syrup.

The next step for researchers is to delve deeper into how these temperature and precipitation changes may affect Canada’s economy, ecology, and the daily lives of Canadians.

You can find a link to the full paper here.

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