The global trend in climate change is toward higher temperatures, according to data compiled by climate scientists.
Last year was the second-hottest on record, according to NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies scientists. A slightly different analysis by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ranks 2017 as third but both add the proviso that the year turned out warm even without an El Nino weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean, which can drive temperatures up. Both the top year, 2016, and 2015 were influenced by the tropical ocean current effect.
Locally, a database of annual average temperatures compiled by Accuweather shows the Halifax area recorded an average temperature of 8.3 C, an increase of 1.7 C over normal. The year’s average increase can be seen in an interactive tool provided by the New York Times. The service offers data for more than 3,800 locations. In Nova Scotia, data is shown for Yarmouth (1.1 C above normal), Halifax and Sydney (up 0.7 C). Other area communities include Charlottetown, P.E.I., (up 0.9 C), Fredericton, N.B., (up 0.5 C) and St. John’s, N.L., (up 0.5 C).
Cindy Day, chief meteorologist for Saltwire Network, said one has to be careful when judging climate change by data from a single year, but it can be a signpost when considered in an overall trend.
“A lot of people just look at the short term and from that make some conclusions, but that’s animpossibility because that’s when you startseparating ‘weather’ from ‘climate,’ ” Day saidTuesday. “Because weather is just what happens over the course of a few days, weeks, even months, but climate is at least a
30-year period. You have to analyze data over 30 years to get any kind of indication of which way you’re going, up or down. So saying that 2017 was the second-hottest year on record, if you look at that alone, that doesn’t say much. But if you step back and look at what the last few decades have proven to us, (the) last decade was the warmest decade on record. Period. And that’s since the 1880s. So that’s a telling picture.”
This comes at a time when scientists are calling on the Canadian government to reinvest in climate change science. The government’s Climate Change and Atmospheric Research funding program is set to wrap up at the end of the fiscal year. The program, put in place by the Stephen Harper government to replace a much more extensive one set up by the Chretien Liberals, is not being renewed by Justin Trudeau’s government. It provided $5 million over five years for seven research networks.
Only one is getting a reprieve: the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Lab (PEARL), located on Ellesmere Island at the 80-degree line of latitude in the high Arctic. The lab has an 18-month extension “subject to some conditions that we’re in the middle of negotiating with the government at the moment,” said Dalhousie University researcher James Drummond, who runs the PEARL.
The atmospheric scientist has been doing climate and air quality research for 40 years. He’s recently retired from Dal but still conducts extensive research.
“We make measurements on the atmosphere with three main objectives in mind. One is looking at air quality in the high Arctic. The second one is looking at ozone issues because although we’ve had 30 years of the Montreal protocol — we just celebrated that last September — the protocol still needs monitoring and continual understanding because the system is changing. And the third thing we look at is climate.”
Drummond said there is clear evidence of climate change.
“Now we’re seeing an up-trend which is due to the fact that we’re increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
That goes along with what Day is seeing. Although there will always be steps up and down in a given timeframe because there may be conditions to bring in arctic air, overall the whole curve shows temperatures are rising.
“What it does mean — at least for us here in Atlantic Canada, is that with warming temperatures, both air and sea surface temperatures, there’s more latent heat available and latent heat equals energy and energy fuels storms,” Day said.
“That’s why we’re going to see more significant storms, perhaps not more frequent, but when they do come, they will be much more intense.'