Guest Opinion By Dr. Adam Fenech
Another year has gone by and it’s time to talk about Prince Edward Island’s top three weather stories of 2013. This past year wasn’t such a record breaking year as 2012, but it reminded us that the weather plays an important part of our everyday lives. Every year brings stories of weather no matter where you are, and Prince Edward Island is no different. Here are my top three weather stories for 2013, and how they affected P.E.I.
Number 3 - Good weather for potato harvest
Finally, a good weather story in the top three — 2013 was a good weather year for the potato harvest. While the cold wet spring delayed planting by about a week, and summer climate conditions produced only an average potato crop this year, there were fewer cases of late blight reported on P.E.I.’s potato crop, an unusual situation due to the hot and dry temperatures. Potato blight is a fungus that can be devastating for potato crops. More importantly, potato growers across P.E.I. basked in some of the finest weather in years for the autumn harvest, scooping up clean white potatoes instead of mud-splotched ones — red mud of course. The autumn climate was so co-operative that most of the province’s potatoes — roughly 85,000 acres — were in the warehouses before Halloween.
Number 2 - Record extreme heat in both winter and summer
This year was one of record extreme heat yet again, but this time in both winter and summer seasons. After a downright painful cold snap that lasted more than a week, Islanders were treated to some extremely mild weather during the final week of January in 2013. Temperatures reached record levels for January 30 peaking at plus 9.9 degrees Celsius in Charlottetown, breaking the old January 30 record of 7.8 degrees that had stood for more than a century (1910), and reached plus 8.7 degrees in Summerside, breaking the old January 30 record of 7.2 degrees set in 1938. The following day was even warmer at 11.2 degrees in Charlottetown, shattering the old January 31 record set in 1938 when the capital city reached 8.9 degrees. Summerside was at 11 degrees, topping the old January 31 mark of 8.9 degrees set in 1953. Temperatures dropped 20 degrees by nightfall that day returning to more seasonal temperatures but it was a great reprieve in the middle of last year’s winter.
Temperatures climbed to record highs in the summer of 2013 as well, when on July 15th thermometers read 31 degrees Celsius, two degrees above the previous record for the day. After days of record-breaking heat and tinder-dry conditions, campfire bans were put into place at P.E.I. parks and all burning permits on P.E.I. were cancelled. July 2013 was one of the hottest months on record with five days where temperatures reached 30 degrees Celsius at Charlottetown Airport; as a comparison in July 2012, there was not a single day where temperatures reached 30 degrees Celsius. Even hardware stores ran out of fans and air conditioners at one point in July as Islanders looked for ways to stay cool.
Number 1 – More extreme weather is the new normal
2013 will go down as the 19th year in a row that saw higher than normal annual average temperatures on Prince Edward Island (in the raw climate record compared to a 1961 to 1990 climate normal). P.E.I. temperatures in 2013 were fully 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than the 1961 to 1990 climate normal.
These are reflecting the overall global temperature changes being recorded by scientists. As the global community’s scientific authority on climate matters, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reported this year that warming of the climate system is “unequivocal and unprecedented”; there is now “incontrovertible evidence” that atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased in the last 200 years, causing the average temperature of earth’s atmosphere and oceans to rise; and that so much evidence now exists that scientists are “virtually certain” human activity is the main driver of climate change, which means they are at least 99 per cent sure. These warming trends have led Environment Canada meteorologists to state that more extreme weather is the new normal for Atlantic Canada. So we all better get used to it.
Questions? Contact Adam Fenech at email@example.com or 902-620-5220.
Dr. Adam Fenech is director, Climate Lab,
University of Prince Edward Island