CH Comments on Role of Climate Change in Increasing Wildfire Risks

Following the major destruction wrought by the Fort McMurray wildfire at the beginning of May, and public interest in the factors which may have contributed to its ferocity, CH Director and Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change Professor John Pomeroy was asked by Global News for his thoughts on this topic.

Dr Pomeroy highlighted research showing that conditions leading to low soil moisture and air humidity – such as those experienced throughout much of central and western Canada this spring following an extremely mild, dry winter – lead to an increased likelihood of major wildfires occurring. Many of the models developed to predict future fire behaviour under changing climatic conditions show such risks intensifying dramatically over future decades, particularly in the northern forests.

The interview is available for online viewing here.


PhD Student Awarded APEGS Grant

CH student Holly Anand, who is working towards her PhD on the topic of ‘Changing Prairie Hydrology’ under the supervision of Professors John Pomeroy and Howard Wheater, has been awarded a Member Grant of $7500  by the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan (APEGS).

The award was made on the basis of Holly’s essay describing her accomplishments in the practice of engineering, service to the profession, reasons for pursuing grad studies and community involvement, supported by references from Professors John Pomeroy and Terry Fonstad. She will receive the award at the APEGS banquet in Saskatoon on the 7th of May.


CH Contributes Views on Possible Summer Drought Risks

CH’s Professor John Pomeroy has been interviewed by several Saskatoon media channels on the topic of likely water resources scenarios in the prairies this summer, following a warm, dry winter throughout much of the region.

The signs at this stage (mid April) are that western areas may be at particular risk of encountering drought-like conditions, with resultant impacts on agriculture and wildfire risks.

Prof. Pomeroy commented that “Large evacuations due to forest fire are occurring almost every year in western Canada now, when they used to be much rarer occurrences”.

  • CTV News Saskatoon
  • ‘Desert-dry’ Saskatchewan primed for wildfires
    Saskatoon StarPhoenix, 20th April 2016
    Original ArticleArchived PDF
  • Red Cross gears up for 2016 Sask. forest fire season
    Global News Saskatoon, 20th April 2016
    Original Article

CH Model Contributes to UNESCO Andean Hydrological Training in Chile

The UNESCO International Hydrological Programme Course on Professional Training on Andean Hydrology held in Santiago, Chile, 17-20 November 2015 featured hydrological model training using the U of S’s Cold Regions Hydrological Model (CRHM) – taught by Dr James McPhee and PhD student Yohann Videla Giering, both of the University of Chile.

The course was taught to 52 students from Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, Dominican Republic, Argentina and Germany. Dr McPhee is a collaborator with UofS in the field of mountain hydrology and water resources. Yohann Videla Giering is now on a Chilean Government-funded exchange spending 6 months with the University of Saskatchewan Centre for Hydrology (GIWS) where he is learning how to apply the new glacier hydrology components of CRHM (developed as part of CCRN) to calculate the water resources of the Andes.

More details are provided (in Spanish) here.

CH Provides Insights on Wider Implications of Warm Spring Conditions

Prof. John Pomeroy – in his capacity as Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change – was recently asked by two media outlets for his thoughts on the science behind this year’s warm winter and spring.

Saskatoon’s StarPhoenix newspaper published an article considering the links between these historically highly unusual (and in some cases unprecedented) conditions, global climate change, and what may yet turn out to be the strongest El Niño on record. It also looked at what they may portend for the risks of floods, drought and wildfires during the approaching summer.

Similar points were covered by local radio station News Talk 650.

The news article is available from its original source here, and as a downloadable PDF: the radio piece is described here.

CH Members Contribute to National Post Article on Climate Change Impacts

CH director Professor John Pomeroy and CH fellow Mike Demuth (Geological Survey of Canada) have contributed to an article in the National Post outlining ways in which the effects of climate-change may be felt across Canada. The piece considers likely changes in temperature, precipitation, glacial cover, water resources, distributions of vegetation and wildlife and some related socio-economic issues.

The article is available here. Please note that early versions misquoted Prof. Pomeroy: the related passage should read as follows;

The extra rain, for example, is unlikely to fall in a gentle spring shower. Look for it in great flooding downpours or winter rains that drain before they can nourish crops.

John Pomeroy, a Canada research chair in water resources at the University of Saskatchewan, points out the amount of water that falls as snow has already declined by one-third on the Prairies. The number of multi-day rains has increased by half.

“Farmers need to adapt to that, to being inundated and flooded quite a bit,” he said.

CH Climate Insights Contribute to Canmore News Article

CH Director Professor John Pomeroy was asked by Canmore’s Rocky Mountain Outlook to comment on the warm and dry conditions seen this winter in Alberta’s southern mountains.

He said that while temperatures are running some 8°C above average and snowpack is below-normal, prospects for summer flows depend primarily on the weather to come through the spring. The current strong El Niño is largely to blame this year, but with average winter temperatures having risen 1.5° to 2°C since the early 1960s, these conditions may well become more commonplace in future decades.

The article (published 17th February 2016) is available for online viewing here.

CH Comments on Evolving Aspects of Outdoor Winter Recreation under Climate Change

CH director Professor John Pomeroy was asked by The Globe and Mail this week to comment on the likely influences of climate-change on winter outdoor pursuits in two strongly contrasting contexts.

For the first article (published on Sunday 31st January 2016), he was asked how risks associated with mountain snowpacks might alter with changing climatic conditions, following the loss of five snowmobilers’ lives in the BC Rocky Mountains as the result of an avalanche.

He responded that increasing minimum air temperatures should tend generally to result in more consolidated snowpacks, which in turn should be more stable. Warmer, wetter snow is also less likely to be transported by wind, to form cornices on the lees of ridges: sudden failure of such features is a common cause of avalanches. However, there are signs that winter weather patterns may be swinging more frequently between extremes of warm and cold: this will influence patterns and characteristics of precipitation, and alter snowpack metamorphic processes, thereby increasing the challenge of accurately forecasting avalanche risks.

The second (published on Wednesday 3rd February 2016) considered how warmer winter conditions are impacting the viability of outdoor rinks, and thus opportunities for shinny and other varieties of informal hockey. Dr Pomeroy’s prognosis was pessimistic, in view of increasing occurrences of warm temperatures and rainfall, and the corresponding unreliability of ground remaining frozen throughout the winter, in many areas of the country. (Those with an interest in this serious risk to one of the nation’s key icons of winter identity, not to mention its future hockey prospects, might also be interested in the RinkWatch project.)

The articles are available for online viewing here:

CH Students Win AGU Cryosphere Innovation Prizes

Two PhD students at CH were awarded $1000 prizes for their two-minute ‘Flash Freeze’ pitches for the Cryosphere Innovation Award for Students at the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

Nik Aksamit focused on identifying the smallest eddies in alpine turbulence relevant to transporting snow, using a new Particle Tracking Velocimetry apparatus.

Phillip Harder proposed to improve precision farming systems through high-resolution mapping of snow using the system for acoustic sensing of snow (SAS3) mounted on UAVs.