Climate forecasts improve with new programs, technology

Data collection and top notch equipment to help collect and analyze it is necessary if Canada is to properly monitor climate change and improve forecasting of extreme weather events.

“There is two weeks lead time that is credible and that is what we have been using to drive these models,” said John Pomeroy, Canada research chair in water resources and climate change at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Uncertainty still exists around forecasts but with better information and earlier warnings, government and communities could improve how they manage structures like dams to move water or prepare for a pending emergency.

“We live in dangerous times. For many reasons it is an era of global water threats,” Pomeroy said at the Bow River Basin Council science forum held May 3 in Calgary.

Severe events can be costly, both emotionally for the people involved and financially. The Fort McMurray wildfire of 2016 cost nearly $9 billion.

The southern Alberta floods of 2013 caused more than $6 billion in damages.

They are the two biggest weather-related disasters in Canadian history.

Improvements to climate data collection and analysis were set in motion with a major grant from the 2014 Canada First Research Executive fund, which offered $1.5 billion to universities for various projects.

A consortium of universities, research institutes, provincial and federal governments, First Nations, private companies and international researchers received $78 million over seven years.

The universities added more funds, increasing the amount to $143 million to hire new people and pay for improved research on floods, droughts and other climate-related changes.

The goal is to establish Canada as the global leader in water science for cold regions, as well as address strategic needs of the economy in adapting to climate change and risks to the water supply.

Part of the research is dedicated to improved disaster warnings, predicting water quality and quantity in the future, as well as better risk management related to water and climate change.

Researchers also want to better forecast changes in cold-weather regions, collect more data and improve modelling to predict future water supplies and quality, as well as improve how water is managed.

They are also trying to learn how climate change will affect water quality for agricultural activities, industrial developments, land-use changes and water management.

This spring, a large amount of snow exists in the Rocky Mountains, information gathered by high powered drones capable of gathering vast amounts of data from the Rockies in Alberta and British Columbia.

A portion of the consortium funds also helped pay for the Canadian Rockies Hydrological Observatory and Coldwater Laboratory in Canmore, Alta.

  • Alberta Rivers Data and Advisories App: open.alberta.ca/interact/alberta-rivers-data-and-advisories
  • Alberta Emergency Alert App: www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca/content/about/signup.html
  • A Guide to Protecting Your Family and Property Flood Readiness Guide: bit.ly/2qsMxqc
  • Alberta River Basins Website (https://rivers.alberta.ca/)
  • Alberta Emergency Alert Website: www.emergencyalert.alberta.ca/

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