Is There Evidence for Climate Change in the Sylvan Lake Watershed?

In his book “Landscapes and Cycles” Jim Steele, an authority on the ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada in California, makes a simple and obvious point about climate change: local climate variables, not global ones, drive locally observable climate change. See the Landscapes and Cycles website for case histories and examples of ecological change.

So, what do we know about those local and regional variables and the response of the Sylvan Lake watershed? Here are a few graphics that summarize facts from the official sources of weather and climate records:


Daily mean, maximum and minimum temperatures recorded at the Red Deer Airport are certified by Environment Canada.


Mean Temp 1994-2014

T Max-Min 1994-2014


Rain and snow are recorded as daily precipitation. This graph displays 20 years of accumulated precipitation measured at the Red Deer Airport. The slope is highly linear over the period with seasonal differences causing the annual fluctuations in rate.

Cum Precip 1994-2014

Interpolation of data from the Alberta Agriculture Hespero and other regional weather stations around Sylvan Lake, for six townships in which the watershed is located, shows that the annual rate of precipitation has remained constant since 1961. A climate change impact on precipitation is not significant.

50 Years of Precipitation

Wind Speed-Maximum Gusts

The Red Deer Airport records wind gusts above about 32 km/h. Data are missing from the Environment Canada record between 2003 and 2008. Overall no dominant trend in maximum wind gusts is apparent. Higher velocity winds occur periodically, especially when Low and High pressure systems in northwest Alberta combine to create strong NW flows.

Max Gust vs Date

This graph displays 20 years of wind gust data that show the dominant heavy air directions are NW (about 330 degrees) and SE (about 150 degrees).

Max Wind Gusts vs Dir

Sylvan Lake Level

The level of Sylvan Lake is measured continuously and reported in real time for station #05CC003 by the National Hydrometric Service of Environment Canada. Over the 24 year period 1990-2014 the lake level has varied between a low of about 936.5 and a high of 937.2 metres above sea level, a range of 0.7 metres. Note that more than 10 metres of precipitation fell on Sylvan Lake watershed during that 14 year period.

Sylvan Lake Level 1990-2014

A simple overview of data for the Sylvan Lake watershed is that the evidence for climate change, if any, is lost in the variability of the natural systems.

Editorial Comments on Global Warming and Climate Change

The explanation and adoption of global warming as the principal cause of climate change, and its dependence on CO2 emissions from anthropogenic sources, is questionable as the following analyses show:

This scatter plot of the Global Average Temperature anomaly for the Lower Troposphere (the layer of the atmosphere closest to the surface of the Earth’s land and oceans) as derived and reported monthly since 1979 from satellite data by the University of Alabama at Huntsville against CO2 measurements from the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii suggests that the relationship is a weak one according to the R-squared statistic.

A similar plot of the global boundary layer temperature dataset compiled by the European Center for Medium-term Weather Forecasts (ECMWF -note typo in graph) shows an even weaker correlation between temperature and CO2:

The following graph displays satellite-measured temperatures acquired for Central Alberta (50-55N, 110-114W). This anomaly graph shows that average monthly temperatures can vary significantly (in the range +4.4 to -5.0 degrees C) around the average for the period 1980-2010. The Lower Troposphere temperature anomaly for this volume of the atmosphere has changed little since 1979.

This graph presents the same data and highlights the monthly records:

When the temperature data are plotted against the CO2 concentration in the air instead of time, this graph shows that the tiny amount of warming in Central Alberta is insensitive to CO2.


Ironically, the S&P 500 stock exchange index data over the same period seems to correlate better with atmospheric CO2 confirming that the success of civilization depends on fossil fuels.




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