The older generation is fond of noting that prairie winters used to be a lot colder.
Data shows those folks are right.
Stefan Kienzle, a hydrologist and chair of the University of Lethbridge geography department, has studied 60 years worth of climate data from 1950 to 2010.
“We don’t get very cold winters anymore,” Kienzle told those at the Nov. 24-25 Alberta Irrigation Projects Association water conference.
Given the audience and location, he focused on Alberta data, where the mean annual temperature shows a gradual warming trend over the past 60 years.
There are fewer days when the temperature is below -20 C. In the 1950s, southern Albertans could expect to experience about 32 days of -20 weather, but now it’s only 15.
Average winter temperatures have increased by four to five degrees in the region, but temperatures in spring, summer and fall show only slight increases, Kienzle said.
However, the growing season has lengthened by two to three weeks over the past 60 years because of a reduction in frost days.
Kienzle said the number of consecutive days without precipitation has been stable in the past six decades, but the number of days with temperatures over 25 C has increased.
Southern Albertans can now expect 14 more days of 25 C weather in summer compared to 60 years ago.
Kienzle extracted the data from federal government climate station information originating with the National Land and Water Information Service. He augmented it with some of his own data.
Additional Alberta data can be found at www.albertaclimaterecords.com.