LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – From extreme flooding to a drastic drought to an increase in tornadoes, southern Albertans have experienced some wicked weather in recent years.
One University of Lethbridge professor says it’s going to get even worse.
Geography professor Stefan Kienzle’s says he feels it’s no secret Alberta’s climate has become warmer. However, how Alberta’s climate has changed and what impact that will have on people in the province has led to several different debates. Putting those big questions to rest has been his mission.
“I simply wanted to put fact to fiction,” he said. “I wanted to find out how much has the climate really changed.”
To do that, Kienzle has developed the Alberta Climate Records website; an interactive map that tracks temperature changes across Alberta between 1950 and 2010.
According to the site, the southern part of the province has warmed substantially; especially in the winter where average temperatures have increased by about four degrees Celsius. Kienzle says that rise in temperature has reduced the number of days southern Albertans have below zero degrees by two to three weeks.
He says the enormous amounts of carbon dioxide humans continue to release into the atmosphere is the main reason for this warming.
Over the past 60 years, heat waves have doubled across the province, leaving Albertans with 30 per cent more days of temperatures over 30 degrees.
Kienzle says hotter days means the threat of more severe weather.
“When you look at the Calgary flood, when you look at the increase in the number of wildfires, when you look at the number of damages by hail; we are facing, and will continue to face more extreme weather events across Alberta,” he said.
Despite the expected increase in severe weather, Kienzle explains the extended growing season could even be good news for farmers.
“That’s great for the growers because they can put in a third cut of hay, grow a greater variety of crops, or they can grow in areas that were previously too cold,” he said.
Up and down weather is nothing new in Alberta, but Kienzle says he does have some fears for the future forecast. He says people need to brace themselves for even more intense weather events at an even higher number.