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Wednesday, 08 June 2011 14:58

U of R earns important storm research grant

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By John R. Statton — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Researchers from the University of Regina have received $1.25 million in funding from the federal government to research southwest storms.

“The federal government has dished out $12.5 million dollars to five teams of researchers. They had 110 applications, and they funded five. The U of R is one of those projects,” said David Sauchyn, Geography professor and Scientist with the U of R.

“It’s the only one on the prairies, and it’s the only one of five in Canada, so it’s a quite an accomplishment for the university.”

The project is called Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Extremes in the Americas (VACEA) and is focused on the consequences of warming in regards to extreme climate.

The project is slated at $2.5 million, but half goes directly to Sauchyn’s colleagues in South America.
The Saskatchewan team is partnering up with teams from Chile, Argentina, Columbia, and Brazil.

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is managing the program, which is a part of the federal government dedicated to assist developing countries.

“They require that we work with researchers in other countries, but we were already working in Chile for quite a few years,” said Sauchyn.

“The advantage to working with these countries is that they have similar problems to us, in terms of water, declining snow, retreating glaciers, and they depend a lot on irrigation for farming — in their case different crops, but they still have the same issues when it comes to agriculture.”

His team is comprised of researchers from the universities of Regina, Saskatoon and Lethbridge.

“We’ve chosen to study the Swift Current Creek area, and the Old Man River Basin, so southwestern Saskatchewan and southwestern Alberta,” said Sauchyn.

“We wanted the focus to be on agriculture, and also the extremes of weather. Some of the most extreme weather in the whole world is in these areas.”

He noted extreme temperature variances throughout the year, and the prevalence of droughts and floods.

“That’s something unique to our area in that we get both drought and flooding ... that’s the case with the river basins in South America that we are studying,” said Sauchyn.

“It has to do with the fact that we’re in the middle of the continent, so we get various kinds of weather systems. The closer you get to big bodies of water, the more consistent your climate is.”

What researchers don’t know is the impact global warming will have on the planet. Current models suggest the more the planet heats up, the more variable climate becomes.

“We’ve already got the world’s most variable climate, so does that mean that we can expect more drought, more flooding, more tornadoes, and with greater intensity? That’s the hypothesis that we’re trying to test,” said Sauchyn. “That’s only half of the project, the other half is: What are we going to do about it?”

The research will be all encompassing, with team members out in the field surveying how those affected by weather extremes adapt to those changes.

Sauchyn’s team consists of sociologists, lawyers, engineers, economists, as well as scientists that study policy, water, climate and agriculture.

“It’s quite a large, complex project, but that’s what it takes to study problems like this,” he said.

Findings will be published as the research is completed, so there won’t be a five-year wait for the results. They will be released to the public as they are produced at

“People have their own opinions, perceptions and observations, but there’s no question in the scientific community,” said Sauchyn.

“There’s no disagreement; the facts are out there: If you don’t think the earth is warming, then don’t use a thermometre or listen to the weather forecast.”

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