New online portal details how climate change will impact Ontario

Image shows a hand holding a pine cone against a lush backdrop of greenery
Huaiping Zhu

York University’s Laboratory of Mathematical Parallel Systems (LAMPS) is exploring how climate change will affect Ontario in a new online portal containing hundreds of thousands of data points, maps, graphs and predictions.

The Ontario Climate Data Portal (OCDP), led by Huaiping Zhu, a professor of mathematics and statistics and director of LAMPS in the Faculty of Science, based calculations on the greenhouse gas concentration trajectories adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The portal – which was referenced in early December in the Ontario government’s “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-In-Ontario Environment Plan” – includes more than 10 terabytes of data that researchers can use to do their own analyses. It is also available to the public.

Some of what the OCDP’s researchers found is hotter, wetter days with fewer days when the temperatures dip below freezing. Although warmer weather may sound good, LAMPS has other data available on what those rising temperatures and more precipitation could mean for the breeding mosquitoes and increases in West Nile virus and other mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika.

“Under the IPCC’s business-as-usual emission scenario, we found the annual average temperature over Ontario could be 3.3 C higher by the 2050s and 5.7 C higher by the 2080s than the 1990s,” said Zhu.

The number of summer days may increase by about 27 days by the 2050s and 50 days by the 2080s. Precipitation may increase by about 70 millimetres by the 2050s and 112 millimetres by the 2080s. At the same time, frost days are expected to decrease by 28 days in about 30 years, and 48 days in about 60 years.

The OCDP includes a set of probabilistic projections for both long-term averages and extreme climate indices for the province, 50 regions and 150 municipalities for the periods of 2040-69 and 2070-99.

Zhu and his team recently published “A Look at Ontario’s Climate of the Future with the Ontario Climate Data Portal” in the newest edition of the Bulletin of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. Data on the portal has been quoted by many papers and reports, including Ontario’s latest plan. The Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation & Parks provided funding for the development of the portal and data.