The value of historical phenological observations in understanding the past climate of Nova Scotia
The Climate is History Workshop, UWO 2014
Dr. Adam Fenech, University of Prince Edward Island
From 1900 to 1923, an influential superintendent of schools in Nova Scotia, Canada, Dr. A. H. MacKay, recruited teachers around the province to use their students to observe 100 natural occurrences each year, and report them in a standardized way. These observations included the appearance of blooming wildflowers, cultivated plants, migratory birds, mammals, amphibians plus the freezing of lakes and rivers, appearance of frost and snow, number and severity of thunderstorms, hurricanes, among others. Tracking the timing of naturally occurring events helps show trends in the effects on biota and human activities as a result of climate change and weather variability. Many centuries of plant phenology records from Europe show us that plants and animals are sensitive weather instruments: they can be used for recording climate variables (heat, precipitation, wind) and for forecasting the best time for planting, harvesting, treating for pests, avoiding pollen or planning your holidays. This presentation will detail the results of examining the 20 years of MacKay data identifying trends in phenology and human activity, and its possible messages for climate change in eastern Canada during the first quarter of the 20th century.
Dr. Fenech has worked extensively in the area of climate change since the IPCC First Assessment Report in 1988. He has edited 7 books on climate change, most recently on Climate Impacts and Adaptation Science. Dr. Fenech has worked for Harvard University researching the history of the science/policy interfaces of climate change. He has represented Canada at international climate negotiating sessions; written climate policy speeches for Canadian Environment Ministers; and authored Canadian reports on climate change to the United Nations. Dr. Fenech has taught at the University of Toronto as well as the Smithsonian Institution for almost 20 years, and lectures regularly at universities across Canada and around the world. He is presently the Director of the University of Prince Edward Island’s Climate Research Lab that conducts research on the vulnerability, impacts and adaptation to past and future climate change.