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Springcasting and other interesting websites

Data on lilacs’ flowering and budding over time are being put to work in the U.S.

With about a month and a half left in our rather uneventful extended winter season (November to March) it’s becoming difficult to come up with new and interesting things to write about. Remember, feel free to contact me at [email protected] with any questions or ideas you may have about anything weather related. That said, I did receive an email a few weeks ago that contained a link to an interesting website, so I figured I’d share the site with you, along with a couple of additional sites that I like to use.

Thanks to local reader Pete, who just happens to live about 15 km from me, which, in the country, is pretty close to being a neighbour. Pete sent me the following link to a University of Cornell web page that discusses research they are conducting on Springcasting. Unfortunately, it only covers the U.S., but for those of us who live near the border, you can kind of extrapolate the data northward into Canada.

The premise behind Springcasting started back in the 1950s when a researcher recruited a bunch of volunteers to plant lilacs across the western U.S. and then record dates when flowers and leaves first appeared. Lilacs were used due to the fact that their flowering and leaf budding are closely correlated to temperature. Then, jumping ahead to the 1980s, new research began to look at all of the collected data and try and use meteorological data to predict when the lilacs will flower and leaf out. By 2015-16 this work had progressed to the point that spring indices were being produced that showed and tracked how spring unfolds. This year, they are trying the next step to see if they can predict when spring will unfold on the time scale of weeks to possibly months ahead. The latest map, which was produced in late January, predicts that the region adjacent to Manitoba (near the North Dakota border) will see spring unfold about five days earlier than average. I’m not sure what to make of this, but it will be interesting to see how it fares over the next couple of years.

Future climate

The next website is much closer to home: the Prairie Climate Atlas, an interactive climate site brought to you by the Prairie Climate Centre and a collaboration between the University of Winnipeg and the international Institute for Sustainable Development. Quoting the website: “How is the climate of the Canadian Prairie provinces going to change in the coming decades? The Prairie Climate Atlas answers this important question by providing you with detailed, state-of-the-art, yet easily understood information about our region’s changing climate.”

The site works by simply scrolling down the left side of the page that discusses projected changes in temperatures and precipitation across the Prairies over the next century. On the right side, new interactive graphics appear that link to the information being displayed on the left side. It covers topics from overall temperature trends and the number of +30 C and -30 C days we can expect, to changes in precipitation. Some of the final graphics show what is called the spatial analogue, which means they show on a map (spatially) how our possible future climate lines up with current climates (analogue). For example, they show that by 2050, under continued high carbon levels, Winnipeg’s summer climate will be similar to that of South Dakota and Nebraska. Definitely interesting information and something to check out.

The final website I would like to share is where I get the temperature time series plots I occasionally use and have included in this week’s article. The graphs are created by NOAA and can be found at the Climate Prediction Center section on its website.

The site breaks down the available data into different regions of the world. For Manitoba, you need to look under Canada and then Eastern Canada. You have three different links (30, 90, 365), which are the numbers of days of data that will be displayed on the graph. Once you click on one of these links a map of the region you selected will show, along with all of the sites that have available data. Simply click on the site you want and the associated graph will pop up.

That’s about all the room I have for this week. Let’s hope the weather continues to be quiet as we work our way toward spring.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.


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