New climatology team studying climate change on P.E.I.

Adam Fenech leads group looking at coastal erosion, among other issues

Nigel Armstrong
Published on November 7, 2012
Robert Gilmour, left, vice-president of research at UPEI welcomes Adam Fenech, UPEI climate lab director as guest speaker Tuesday for a monthly program called Research on Tap.
Guardian photo by Nigel Armstrong

A climatologist recently hired at UPEI is leading a team looking at climate change and its effects on the Island.

Adam Fenech, UPEI climate lab director was guest speaker Tuesday at a monthly program sponsored by the university called Research on Tap.

He was formerly with Environment Canada but now leads a team of seven people doing research about P.E.I.

“I spend most of my research trying to link the global climate models to local decision making,” said Fenech.

He and one other climatologist work on the team that was created in March this year.

“Our mandate is to conduct research to help the Island adapt to climate change and also get a handle on what is going on with temperature and precipitation and get an understanding of what the future impacts might be on the Island,” said Fenech.

“Coastal erosion is one of the big issues and how things like the growing seasons might be changing, how it might affect tourism. We have already engaged in a  lot of work with that already.”

The group just received approval from Natural Resources Canada for a study of risk zones for coastal erosion. The first phase will use historical data of erosion rates. When that study is completed in about one year, then work will begin on how the zones change when global warming models are applied.

“It is looking at the risk of coastal residences and infrastructure like roads and bridges and heritage like graveyards or lighthouses, that sort of thing,” said Fenech. “We will be doing an evaluation of what is under a high, medium or low risk.”

Under global warming models into the future, the results “might start scaring people,” he said.

Existing models show global warming’s possible affect on P.E.I.

“It follows the current trend it is on right now, which is warmer and drier,” said Fenech. “Some of the trends are varied on a monthly basis. We tend to be getting, at the moment, drier periods in the spring, during the growing season, and wetter periods during July and August which is our tourist season. That is what the trends are telling us over the last 30 years.”

The fact P.E.I. didn’t follow that trend this year reflects the up-and-down nature of climate, said Fenech. It is the 30-year-average that offers the best view of trends, he said.

In 100 years the average temperature on P.E.I. is expected to rise four more degrees to make our climate similar to what Boston has now, he said.