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A Concordia hydrologist’s online portal compiles, animates and compares Quebec’s climate data

Urban planners, ecologists, farmers, miners and engineers are among those who’ll benefit from Ali Nazemi’s newest product
February 10, 2020
Photo by Gabriel Alenius on Unsplash
Photo by Gabriel Alenius, on Unsplash

What’s the average snowfall in Quebec for the last 20 years? Are there more annual days of ground thaw today than there were a decade ago?

Urban planners, ecologists, farmers, miners, engineers and even ice-road truckers, among many others, want to know.

Now the answers to these and various related questions are easily reachable, thanks to the Cold Region Data Accessibility Portal for Quebec — a new bilingual portal launched by Concordia’s Water Security and Climate Change Lab.

The portal builds on the success of the online apps developed last year by Ali Nazemi and his team. The new portal is a data accessibility tool, with various animation and visualization capabilities, that makes temporal and spatial comparisons.

It shows the results annually, seasonally, monthly across various geographic scales from a single grid point to the whole province — of precipitation, temperature, snow depth, snow cover and the number of frozen days and thawed days.

It creates 2D and 3D graphs, as well as personalized downloadable reports with information like elevation profile, topography, land use and land cover, and the location of climate and hydrometric stations.

From left: Shakil Jiwa, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and professor Ali Nazemi. From left: Shakil Jiwa, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student, and professor Ali Nazemi.

Weathervane on Quebec

The data support for this new web application comes from multiple sources, including Environment and Climate Change Canada. This data is integrated with other data obtained from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites and Princeton University in New Jersey.

“Now we have multiple sources of data for every possible region and duration across Quebec, therefore we can look at their co-evolution,” says Nazemi, assistant professor in the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“We can go as fine as grid points of 25 kilometres by 25 kilometres.”

How it works

What if, for example, you want to compare how the temperature in one particular region of Quebec has changed between 1979 and 2016?

“Using the data tool, you can chose the whole province, a particular ecozone, a drainage basin, a watershed or a sub-watershed, or customize it to your own land holding,” explains Shakil Jiwa, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student who led the building of the portal under Nazemi’s direction.

“The portal generates various tables and graphs showing the temperature — annually, monthly or seasonally — and exactly where the climate stations in the region are located,” Jiwa says.

“The report supplies contour maps of the elevation and data on the number and location of hydrometric stations. It’s all there, and we have it not only for temperature but multiple other variables as well.”

Let’s talk about climate

“Last January, when we launched the three previous portals, we received lots of encouraging comments from the scientific community, operational authorities and the public, so now we want to go further,” says Nazemi.

One of his goals is to inform the discussion on climate change — an often emotional and politically loaded topic.

“We want to make the climate debate more rational by supplying facts to better inform the conversation and provide evidence to persuade politicians to make change where it’s required,” he explains.

“When you look at the long-term averages or trends generated by our portal, you see patterns at the climate level that cannot be revealed when you look at the day-to-day weather data. We want to show the public how the new environmental patterns are emerging as a result of the ongoing climate change”

Learn more about the
Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science.



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