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  • Authors: Rajesh R. Shrestha, Alex J. Cannon, Markus A. Schnorbus and Francis W. Zwiers Publication Date: Jun 2016

    Historically high extreme streamflow on the lower Fraser River has the potential to cause significant damage due the high concentration of infrastructure and human activity in the region. Using a combination of process-based and statistical modelling, we project that small (e.g. 2-20 year return period) extreme streamflow events will decrease in intensity, that the intensity of intermediate events (e.g. 40-60 year return period) will remain essentially unchanged, and that events of historic intensity (e.g. 100-200 year return period) will intensify modestly. [Extreme streamflow on the Fraser typically occurs in late spring/ early summer and is dependent on snow storage in the basin. Projected increases in winter precipitation would, all else being equal, increase the snow storage. Warming, however, tends to moderate this impact by reducing the fraction of winter precipitation stored as snow and shortening the period of snow storage]. The analysis in this paper is performed using an extreme value analysis technique that allows for nonstationarity in annual extreme streamflow by relating extreme streamflow with antecedent winter and spring precipitation and temperature. The study uses an extensive suite of existing simulations with the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) hydrologic model driven by Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 3 (CMIP3) climate simulations to train and evaluate the nonlinear and nonstationary Generalized Extreme Value conditional density network (GEVcdn) model of Fraser River streamflow extremes, and subsequently applies the model to project changes in Fraser River extremes under CMIP5 based climate change scenarios.

  • Authors: Krosby, M., Michalak, J., Robbins, T.O., Morgan, H., Norheim, R., Mauger, G., and T. Murdock Publication Date: Jun 2016

    Plant and animal species have historically used movement to adapt to changes in the Earth’s climate, shifting their ranges across landscapes to stay within climatically suitable habitat. Species are using this strategy to adapt to present day climate change, but the current rate of change is so rapid that many species will have difficulty keeping pace. In addition, human land use (e.g., highways, cities, farms) presents significant barriers to wildlife movement across today’s landscapes. For this reason, enhancing habitat connectivity – the ability of species to move across the landscape – is a leading strategy for helping wildlife respond to climate change. And yet, significant challenges remain in translating this high-level strategy into specific, on-the-ground actions. The Washington-British Columbia Transboundary Climate-Connectivity Project was initiated to help address these challenges. The region spanning the border of Washington state, USA, and British Columbia, Canada, faces increasing development pressure and limited transboundary coordination of land and wildlife management, both of which may threaten habitat connectivity and limit the potential for wildlife movement in response to change. In addition, the effects of climate change may further reduce habitat connectivity, and species may need novel types of habitat connectivity to complete adaptive range shifts. This project paired scientists and practitioners from both sides of the border to collaboratively identify potential climate impacts and adaptation actions for transboundary habitat connectivity, using a diverse suite of case study species, a vegetation system, and a region. Case study assessments revealed that climate change is likely to have significant implications for transboundary habitat connectivity. The adaptation actions identified to address potential impacts varied by case study, but fell into two general categories: those addressing potential climate impacts on existing habitat connectivity and those addressing novel habitat connectivity needs for climate-induced shifts in species ranges. In addition, project partners identified priority spatial locations for implementing these actions, as well as additional research needed to improve assessment of climate impacts and adaptation actions for habitat connectivity. The project resulted in a suite of products designed in collaboration with project partners to ensure their relevance and ease of application to decision-making. These products include this project overview report, which describes the project’s rationale, partnerships, approach, key findings, lessons learned, and remaining needs; detailed, stand-alone appendices for each case study, which describe the assessment process and key findings for each, and include all materials used in the assessment; and an interactive project gallery on the online mapping platform, Data Basin, which includes project reports and associated assessment materials, including interactive and downloadable connectivity and climate datasets. In addition, project participants emerged with enhanced capacity and a transboundary community of practice for addressing climate change and habitat connectivity in their decisionmaking. However, ongoing support for transboundary capacity building, collaboration, and research will be needed to promote the future resilience of our shared species and ecosystems.

  • Authors: T. Q. MURDOCK, D. NYLAND, S. SOBIE, AND J. WOLF Publication Date: Jun 2016

    Large scale infrastructure projects have long lifespans so planning them considers the long term. Highways in British Columbia are already experiencing extreme events beyond design capacity (see: photos at left). In 2008, the BC MOTI identied a pair of adaptation case studies, the results of which informed four streams of subsequent work (see timeline and other text boxes). A best practices summary of four years of adaptation work recommended MOTI produce a policy document. Following stakeholder and expert review, a ”Technical Circular” was published in 2015, requiring all projects for MOTI to consider climate. To assist with implementation, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC is developing comprehensive guidelines for engineers to mainstream adaptation into their practice.

  • Authors: M. Kirchmeier-Young, F. Zwiers and N. Gillett Publication Date: May 2016

    An anthropogenic signal is detected in Arctic Sea Ice Extent (SIE) with all ensembles for the annual time series and also for September and March separately. All forcings (anthropogenic and natural, ALL) are necessary to explain the occurrence of SIE events more extreme than the current record minima (2012 for Sep., 2015 for Mar.), but not yet sufficient. If the current trends continue, ALL forcing will become sufficient for the occurrence of such events. Arctic SIE presents a counterexample to the statement that individual extreme events cannot be attributed to human influence.

  • Authors: Francis Zwiers Publication Date: May 2016

    Material includes: detection and attribution of long term changes and event attribution.

  • Source Publication: Climate Dynamics, doi:10.1007/s00382-016-3079-6 Authors: Ribes, A, F.W. Zwiers, Jean-Marc Azaïs and P. Naveau Publication Date: Apr 2016

    We propose here a new statistical approach to climate change detection and attribution that is based on additive decomposition and simple hypothesis testing. Most current statistical methods for detection and attribution rely on linear regression models where the observations are regressed onto expected response patterns to different external forcings. These methods do not use physical information provided by climate models regarding the expected response magnitudes to constrain the estimated responses to the forcings. Climate modelling uncertainty is difficult to take into account with regression based methods and is almost never treated explicitly. As an alternative to this approach, our statistical model is only based on the additivity assumption; the proposed method does not regress observations onto expected response patterns. We introduce estimation and testing procedures based on likelihood maximization, and show that climate modelling uncertainty can easily be accounted for. Some discussion is provided on how to practically estimate the climate modelling uncertainty based on an ensemble of opportunity. Our approach is based on the “models are statistically indistinguishable from the truth” paradigm, where the difference between any given model and the truth has the same distribution as the difference between any pair of models, but other choices might also be considered. The properties of this approach are illustrated and discussed based on synthetic data. Lastly, the method is applied to the linear trend in global mean temperature over the period 1951–2010. Consistent with the last IPCC assessment report, we find that most of the observed warming over this period (+0.65 K) is attributable to anthropogenic forcings (+0.67 ±± 0.12 K, 90 % confidence range), with a very limited contribution from natural forcings (−0.01±0.02−0.01±0.02 K).

  • Authors: Francis Zwiers Publication Date: Apr 2016

    Topics include observations of precipitation extremes, detection and attribution work on precipitation extremes and projected changes to precipitation extremes. Key points include that the understanding of the impact of anthropogenic forcing on extremes remains limited, but it is safe to conclude that stationarity is dead. Projected changes are large and depend ont the emissions scenario, time horizon and model used. We do not yet know much about accumulation periods shorter than 1-day. If we could produce robust, complete future IDF
    curves, we still must determine what to design for.

  • Authors: Francis Zwiers Publication Date: Apr 2016

    Our understanding of the impact of anthropogenic forcing on extremes remains limited. While we have relatively high confidence for temperature extremes and some confidence in precipitation extremes, as yet we can say relatively little about storms, droughts and floods. We are often very limited by data and, while models and methods can be improved, improving historical data is much harder. To progress, we need further methodological development and improved process understanding. Event attribution is increasingly being undertaken, but there is still much work to do to develop methods and capabilities, understand the implications of framing choices, and develop objective evaluation techniques.

  • Authors: The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium Publication Date: Apr 2016

    The City of Vancouver is warming. Global climate models project annual average temperature to increase by 1.7°C to 4.0°C, and indicate an average increase of 2.9°C between the 1971-2000 baseline and the 2050s. This fact sheet provides specific information intended to facilitate adaptation as the climate changes. All values in the summary are for the 2050s relative to the 1971-2000 baseline. Additional variables, seasons, projections for the 2080s, and maps were also produced and provided to the City of Vancouver.

  • Authors: T. Q. Murdock, S. R. Sobie, H. D. Eckstrand, E. Jackson Publication Date: Apr 2016

    Climate change projections have been provided in this report for Metro Vancouver and the Capital Regional District from several difference sources: Global Climate Models (GCMs) directly, high resolution elevation-corrected projections from GCMs, and Regional Climate Models. Historical climate information at selected stations of interest throughout the region is also provided for comparison.
    Projected annual warming by the 2050s (compared to 1961-1990) for the two regions is similar, according to a set of 30 commonly used Global Climate Models (GCMs). Projections are given for both the 2050s and 2080s periods. For the 2050s, the range of projected change in Metro Vancouver is +1.4°C to +2.8°C in summer, +0.8°C to +2.7°C in winter, -5% to +16% in winter precipitation, and -25% to +5% in summer precipitation. For the 2050s, the range of projected change in the Capital Regional District (CRD) is +1.3°C to +2.6°C in summer, +0.8°C to +2.4°C in winter, -5% to +17% in winter precipitation, and -30% to +1% in summer precipitation. Compared to the ranges, the projected differences between regions are minor.
    Maps of high resolution projections of change are provided for several variables of interest. Projections mid-century show changes in variables related to temperature: increased growing degree days, cooling degree days, and frost free period along with decreased heating degree days and precipitation as snow. The projected 2080s maps illustrate a future climate that does not resemble the present-day for most of these variables.
    Regional Climate Models projections are used to provide projections of changes in temperature, precipitation, and indices of extremes. Extreme temperatures so warm that in the past they would be exceeded on average once every ten years (corresponding to about 32°C to 35°C) are projected to occur on average over twice as often in future in Metro Vancouver and almost four times as often in future in the CRD.
    The amount of precipitation falling during very wet days is projected to increase by 21% in Metro Vancouver and 20% in CRD, while precipitation during extremely wet days is projected to increase by 28% in Metro Vancouver and 25% in CRD. More extreme precipitation events (with 3-hour duration) so intense than in the past they would be exceeded on average only once every 10 years are projected to occur on average three times as often in future in Metro Vancouver and about three and a half times as often in future in CRD.
    The implications of these projected changes are briefly discussed for physical, social, economic, and ecological systems, and the ICLEI Canada climate adaptation planning methodology is described. This process, outlined in Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation is currently being undertaken by communities in Metro Vancouver and CRD. The information contained within this report supports Milestone Two of that process as is intended to assist with adaptation planning.

  • Source Publication: Environmental Research Letters, 11, 4, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/4/044011 Authors: B. Mueller, X. Zhang and F.W. Zwiers Publication Date: Apr 2016

    e project that within the next two decades, half of the world's population will regularly (every second summer on average) experience regional summer mean temperatures that exceed those of the historically hottest summer, even under the moderate RCP4.5 emissions pathway. This frequency threshold for hot temperatures over land, which have adverse effects on human health, society and economy, might be broached in little more than a decade under the RCP8.5 emissions pathway. These hot summer frequency projections are based on adjusted RCP4.5 and 8.5 temperature projections, where the adjustments are performed with scaling factors determined by regularized optimal fingerprinting analyzes that compare historical model simulations with observations over the period 1950–2012. A temperature reconstruction technique is then used to simulate a multitude of possible past and future temperature evolutions, from which the probability of a hot summer is determined for each region, with a hot summer being defined as the historically warmest summer on record in that region. Probabilities with and without external forcing show that hot summers are now about ten times more likely (fraction of attributable risk 0.9) in many regions of the world than they would have been in the absence of past greenhouse gas increases. The adjusted future projections suggest that the Mediterranean, Sahara, large parts of Asia and the Western US and Canada will be among the first regions for which hot summers will become the norm (i.e. occur on average every other year), and that this will occur within the next 1–2 decades.

  • Authors: Francis Zwiers Publication Date: Apr 2016

    China’s observing system records temperatures that are broadly influenced by urban warming

    Thus the warming of the Chinese land-mass is likely overestimated. Comparison between urban and rural stations appears to lead to an underestimate of the strength of the urbanization influence. A detection and attribution formalism allows decomposition of China’s temperature record into externally forced, urbanization induced and internal variability induced components of change

    Results suggest about 1/3rd of the recorded warming is due to urbanization

    Anthropogenic and natural external forcing combined are estimated to have caused 0.93°C [0.61-1.24], consistent with the observed global land mean warming 1.09°C [0.86-1.31

  • Authors: The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium Publication Date: Apr 2016

    This memo summarizes some of the key information required for adaptation in the Whistler area. Projected changes include: increases to the intensity and frequency of heavy rain events; longer, hotter, drier summers and milder winters with reduced snowpack at lower elevations.

  • Authors: Francis Zwiers Publication Date: Apr 2016

    The Challenge Imposed by Climate Change: observed changes, interpretation, projections, limited future warming, key messages and impacts.

  • Authors: Francis Zwiers Publication Date: Apr 2016

    Ability to attribute causes to events remains limited

    – Relatively high confidence for extreme temperature

    – Some confidence in precipitation extremes and perhaps some kinds of drought

    – Can say relatively little about frozen and freezing precipitation, storms, floods, wildfire

    Confidence is often limited by

    – Data quality and length of historical record

    – Process understanding, and ability of models to simulate events

    – Lack of supporting research on detection and attribution of long-term change related to the event type

    Findings are sensitive to framing choices

    – event definition

    – what question is asked

    – whether conditioning factors are taken into account

    Methods are still evolving, and are at least partially determined by the framing

    Need to develop objective event selection criteria

    Don’t yet have a good way to ask highly specific questions (most studies consider classes of events)

  • Authors: Faron S. Anslow Publication Date: Mar 2016

    In many respects, 2015 was a record year for British Columbia, too, both seasonally and for the year as a whole. To help us place last year’s conditions in BC into a historical and global context, PCIC Climatologist Dr. Faron Anslow offers his perspective on 2015. In brief, the warm winter saw records for daily maximum and minimum temperature broken in the southwest and this warmth continued into the spring, with the warmest minimum temperatures ever recorded in western and central BC and maximum temperature records broken in the north. While the summer and fall reverted to more typical conditions, the year overall remained exceptionally warm for the province.

  • Source Publication: Nature Climate Change 6, 706–709, doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE2956. Authors: Sun, Y., X, Zhang, G. Ren, F.W. Zwiers and T. Hu Publication Date: Mar 2016

    China has warmed rapidly over the past half century and has experienced widespread concomitant impacts on water availability, agriculture and ecosystems. Although urban areas occupy less than 1% of China’s land mass, the majority of China’s observing stations are situated in proximity to urban areas, and thus some of the recorded warming is undoubtedly the consequence of rapid urban development, particularly since the late 1970s. Here, we quantify the separate contributions of urbanization and other external forcings to the observed warming. We estimate that China’s temperature increased by 1.44 °C (90% confidence interval 1.22–1.66 °C) over the period 1961–2013 and that urban warming influences account for about a third of this observed warming, 0.49 °C (0.12–0.86 °C). Anthropogenic and natural external forcings combined explain most of the rest of the observed warming, contributing 0.93 °C (0.61–1.24 °C). This is close to the warming of 1.09 °C (0.86–1.31 °C) observed in global mean land temperatures over the period 1951–2010, which, in contrast to China’s recorded temperature change, is only weakly affected by urban warming influences. Clearly the effects of urbanization have considerably exacerbated the warming experienced by the large majority of the Chinese population in comparison with the warming that they would have experienced as a result of external forcing alone.

  • Authors: The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium Publication Date: Mar 2016

    The new Science Brief covers two recent papers by Beedle et al. (2015) and Clarke et al. (2015) on changes to glaciers in western Canada. Publishing in the journal The Cryosphere, Beedle et al. use photographic methods to quantify changes to 33 glaciers in the Cariboo Mountains. They find that all of the glaciers receded over the 1952-2005 period with an average loss in surface area of about 0.19% per year. Clarke et al.’s work is published in Nature Geoscience and uses a regional glaciation model driven by global climate model output to examine possible future changes to glaciers in western Canada. Their projections show a reduction of between 70% to 95% in both glacier area and volume by the year 2100 compared to 2005.

  • Authors: The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium Publication Date: Mar 2016

    The March 2016 edition of PCIC's Update includes stories on: The 13th International Meeting on Statistical Climatology, 2015: A Year in Review, the COP21 Paris Agreement, Faron Anslow's TV interview on CBC, PCIC at the AGU Annual Fall Meeting, an announcement for a talk by Francis Zwiers, discussion of earlier talks from the Pacific Climate Seminar Series and in UVic's Idea Fest, an announcement for new Science Briefs and a welcome to Christian Seiler, PCIC's new Research Climatologist.

  • Authors: Anslow, F.S. and Y. Wang Publication Date: Mar 2016

    This document details the exploratory efforts to create a high quality, homogenized set of monthly mean of daily minimum and maximum temperatures for the Williston Basin and Campbell River regions of British Columbia. Data from BC Hydro, the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, and the Ministry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operation Wildfire Management Branch are used. The data records are of various lengths, from as many as 50 years to as few as a single year. A set of quality control procedures is applied to the data and then the data are subject to a two step statistical homogenization process. The quality control work revealed that the data are of high quality overall. Inconsistencies were set as missing. Homogenization efforts revealed that fewer than 50% of stations contained any discontinuities with the data in the Williston region being of greater homogeneity than that in the Campbell River region. The outlook for homogenizing daily temperature and monthly precipitation totals is also discussed. Appendices detail station metadata as well as changepoint occurrence for each station. This report will be accompanied by an archive of the results of this project including the homogenized datasets.