Paleoclimate Reconstructions and Data

Many of PARC’s research projects have involved the use of our 1,000-year database of tree-ring data and reconstructions of the climate and hydrology of the past millennium. Below we describe the features, applications and limitations of these data, and discuss the incorporation of paleoclimate data into projects. Be sure to click on the video courtesy of the Prairie Climate Centre!

PARC has developed a database of Canadian Prairie Provinces’ climate over past centuries. This product makes PARC unique among Canadian organizations providing climate services. It has proven to be a very useful complement to data derived from weather stations and climate models, and popular among stakeholders in our region since proxies of past climate capture natural and real – as opposed to modeled – variability. Because the monitoring of weather since the late-19th century has coincided with the period of greenhouse gas forcing of the global climate, weather data capture both natural climate variability and anthropogenic climate change. On the other hand, proxy climate data that predate the industrial revolution record only natural climate variability (e.g., Figure 1). Recent research has demonstrated that the natural variability of prairie climate is a major source of uncertainty in the projection of regional climate change. Also, a significant question that occurs to both scientists and practitioners is the extent to which global warming has caused the regional climate to depart from the historical climate regime to which social and ecological systems are adapted.

Figure 1. AD 1111 - 2018 reconstruction of water-year (October - September) flow (in cubic metres per second) of the Athabasca River from tree-ring reconstruction. Adapted from Sauchyn et al. (2015).

Our Paleo Projects / Data in Action

Please click on the boxes below for visualizations of our paleoclimate data.

The Paleoclimate of SW Alberta

Past Climate in the Churchill River Basin

Coming soon

Coming soon

Requesting Paleoclimate Data from PARC

If you or your organization has a Prairies project that may benefit from, or require the use of, hydro-climate data, please contact us to discuss how we may be of assistance. We may have a data set available or be able to assist in collecting data to support your needs. Please note that our data are not accessible to non-technical users who are not familiar with processing large data sets.