What’s So weird About the Weather?: The real threat to Prairie agriculture is the cooling trend

Commentary, Agriculture, Timothy Ball

A $2-5-million grant has just been announced to learn what is already known and to reinforce what is already proven incorrect about the climate and climate mechanisms of the Prairies. The Lethbridge Herald reports a group of researchers are going to “find out if the weird Prairie weather is connected to global warming and how it affects those who live off the land.”

But there is nothing “weird” about today’s weather, despite the claims made by David Sauchyn, University of Regina geography professor and project leader, who says: “If you look at the weather records, the worst flooding and the worst drought we’ve had since weather stations were established have been in the last 10 years.”

He is inaccurate for the modern record and even more inaccurate for the long-term pattern of weather and climate on the Prairies.

Sauchyn also says: “In theory, if you warm up the Earth you should get more extreme weather, but of course we need to verify that.”

No we don’t. We already know warming leads to less extreme weather.

The boundary between cold polar air and warmer tropical air marks the position of the Polar Front. Extreme storms with winter blizzards and heavy rain in spring and fall, including tornadoes and hailstorms, form along the front. The number and intensity of extreme weather events varies with the temperature difference across the front, a parameter referred to as the Zonal Index.

Global warming will reduce the Zonal Index and so extreme weather will also reduce as polar air warms more than tropical air. The current weather extremes across the Prairies stem from the cooling in that region since 2000.

Two patterns dominate mid-latitude weather: extreme fluctuations of temperature and wet and dry cycles. The Canadian Prairies are at the northern extent of this region, so periods of intense cold also play an important role.

This is all well documented in climate records — proxy indicators, written records and the brief instrumental record. For example, Peter Fidler’s 1819 Red River Report notes, “The spring months have sometimes storms of wind and thunder even so early as March within these last years the Climate seems to be greatly changed the summer so backward with very little rain and even snow in winter much less than usual and the ground parched that all summer have entirely dried up…” (sic).

The Sauchyn research team will use climate studies of the past 1,000 years in the Oldman River Basin in southern Alberta to attempt to determine whether a link can be made between extreme weather and global warming. They plan to use tree rings and computer models to compare the past with the future. This sounds eerily similar to the fatally flawed “hockey stick” research promoted by the UN to support its predetermined conclusion that human CO2 emissions are causing dangerous global warming.

The new study will include talking with “people in the agricultural community.” This will contribute nothing scientific. If the government truly wants to help farmers and others “who live off the land,” it should be preparing for the far more dangerous threat to agriculture in Canada — cooling.

Contrary to official temperature records, observational evidence from around the world indicates that we are in a period of cooling almost certainly caused by solar changes. This is expected to continue and deepen and poses the real threat to Prairie and Canadian agriculture, most of which is confined to a narrow strip along our southern border. Fifty percent of crops in Manitoba cannot be grown with a 0.5°C overall temperature drop and much of Canadian agriculture is eliminated entirely by a 1°C cooling. It’s a trend made more threatening because the government, misled by decades of corrupted, predetermined science, plans only for warming.

The $2.5-million “weird weather” study is just the latest example of misleading science taking us in a completely the wrong direction.

— Timothy Ball is a Victoria, B.C.-based environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. Tom Harris is the executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition