Friday, January 5, 2007

  • Snow expert sees climate change
  • But the campus doesn't see snow
  • Flakes in the Friday flurry
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Standing in store with president]

Jan Blackburn has spent 20 years on the UW staff as of today. Colleagues in the retail services department held a celebration for her just before Christmas, to avoid the January rush in the bookstore, and UW president David Johnston dropped by to add his congratulations.

Link of the day

Twelfth Night

When and where

Warrior football program news conference to announce new coach, 11 a.m., Columbia Icefield.

Warrior sports: Men's hockey vs. Western, tonight 7:00, Icefield; Saturday night at Western. • Women's basketball vs. Laurier, Saturday 6 p.m., PAC. • Men's basketball at Lakehead, Friday and Saturday. • Track and field, at University of Toronto invitational, Saturday.

K-W Little Theatre auditions for "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead" continue today 7 to 10 p.m., Student Life Centre room 1115, information e-mail

Dinosaur mural for UW earth sciences museum, painted by Peter Etril Snyder, under way at Waterloo Town Square, open house Saturday 10:00 to 3:00; dinosaur presentations 11:00 and 2:00.

International student orientation Sunday 2:00 to 5:00, Columbia Lake Village community centre, details online.

Frost Week celebrations organized by Engineering Society begin Monday with EngSoc's mascot, The Tool, on display in Carl Pollock Hall foyer along with EngSoc executives in traditional purple. Toboggans Tuesday; duct tape Wednesday; snowmen and red-paper-clip competition Thursday.

Graduate Studies Fair Monday 11:00 to 2:00, Student Life Centre, with information from UW departments on graduate programs, admission requirements and funding.

Application deadline for Ontario high school students seeking September admission to UW is January 10, with some exceptions, details online.

50th anniversary launch celebration Thursday, January 11, 11:30 to 1:30, Physical Activities Complex, everyone welcome; event for night shift staff 10 p.m., South Campus Hall.

City of Waterloo open house with information about proposed sports field project and changes to UW north campus environmental reserve, January 11, 5 to 8 p.m., Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, information 519-747-8642.

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference January 11-13, Hilton Toronto, details online.

Blood donor clinic January 15-19, Student Life Centre, make appointments now at turnkey desk.

Fully graded date when marks for fall term undergraduate courses are final on Quest: January 24.

Snow expert sees climate change

[Blue magazine cover]The world’s climate is changing, says Richard Kelly, a faculty member in geography, speaking bluntly in the most recent issue of the UW Magazine for 100,000 alumni.

“There is fairly strong evidence that the winter season is shortening, particularly at the spring end, and that the volume of water stored in snow, especially in south Canada, is smaller,” says Kelly in the magazine’s cover story, written by Pat Bow of the communications and public affairs office. The article touches on winter-related research at UW from the school of architecture (Terri Meyer Boake talking about insulation) to civil engineering (Susan Tighe on the freeze-and-thaw cycle that wrecks pavement) and recreation and leisure studies (Heather Mair on the social importance of curling in Canadian small towns).

“Snow is Kelly’s business and his passion,” Bow writes. “He measures snow on the ground, which gives detailed but localized data, and from space, using microwave data from instruments on satellites. Co-ordinated, these two sources paint a picture of the cryosphere — the part of the world that’s permanently or seasonally covered with ice and snow. The state of the cryosphere is a key part of the larger picture of global climate change, affecting huge tracts of the atmosphere and continent-sized ocean currents.

“Global warming is already changing the Inuit way of life in Canada’s Arctic, an area sometimes described as the canary in the coal mine. In many other parts of the world, including western North America, much of the water for farming and hydro power comes from snow melt —and there’s less snow to melt.

“Kelly is part of a growing concentration of expertise at Waterloo in snow hydrology and remote sensing.” Part of the reason he joined the Faculty of Environmental Studies, says the article, was that UW is home base to the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network. CCIN was built over the last 15 years by its director, geography professor Ellsworth LeDrew, who also studies climate change related to sea ice variations in the Arctic. The network’s real function is to supply the data needs of researchers, but it also serves the public. Skiers and snowmobilers, for example, can check CCIN’s website for snow conditions in their chosen winter playground before leaving home.

But skiers and snowmobilers, and the industries that support them, face an uncertain future, says Daniel Scott, a geography professor who holds a Canada Research Chair in Global Change and Tourism. “Regardless whether you’re a snowmobiler, a fisher, a gardener, or a birder, climate change will affect the recreation patterns of your children and grandchildren.”

In fact, it’s happening now, the article goes on. In the past century Canada’s climate has warmed one degree. Winters have warmed 1.9 degrees. “That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to affect skiing in Quebec and British Columbia, skating on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal, ice fishing on Lake Simcoe, and snowmobiling in any part of Ontario. On the plus side, the golfing season is getting longer, beaches beckon sooner, and gardeners find their season starting earlier.”

In the long run, Scott says, climate change will probably not hurt tourism in Canada. Winter tourism is not the biggest market: most tourist spending happens from July to September. And many winter resorts have already adapted, removing “ski” from their names and transforming themselves into four-season operations.

As the climate changes, the article concludes, “the snowy winters of the past will melt into memory. With them will go snow forts and snow angels, tobogganing in the after-school sunset, and the traditional white Christmas. At least, that will be reality for the more than 80 per cent of us who live within 250 kilometres of the American border.

“Our love-hate relationship with winter will continue, but it’s bound to become an even rockier relationship, as the changing climate tests to the limit our ability and willingness to adapt.”

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But the campus doesn't see snow

[Snowflake]“I am still hopeful that we won’t need any extra help shoveling snow this winter,” says Les Van Dongen of the grounds section in the plant operations department — but he admits that the strikingly mild weather of the past few weeks won’t likely continue unbroken until spring. So he’s preparing for what’s bound to happen, and sending out word that snowfalls mean an opportunity for shovel-wielding students at $10 an hour.

“When there is 2 centimetres of snow, we could use some help,” he says. “We need people to be available to start work at 7:30 and be dressed to work outside for a minimum of one hour. We will provide a shovel.” Anybody interested can sign up in advance by getting in touch with him (e-mail

The full-time grounds crew, meanwhile, has been on a winter schedule for some time now, with half the team on duty from 11 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. and the other half working daytime hours. With almost no snow so far, the ploughs have barely been out. “There’s always work to do,” says Van Dongen, noting that crew members have been “doing a lot of vehicle maintenance . . . painting some of the older bike racks”. They’d prefer snow clearing, he says: “it makes the hours go faster.”

The UW weather station says December’s temperature was 4.5 degrees above average, making it the warmest December since its records began eight years ago. “The month started out on the cold side but since the 10th it has been consistently warm. It was also quite a contrast to the previous December when the average temperature was 5 degrees lower.”

Coordinator Frank Seglenieks adds: “The rain we had on the last day of the year was enough to push the monthly total precipitation to 86.4 mm, enough to classify it as an above average month. Over a third of the month’s precipitation fell on the first day of the month when we had 35.1 mm; the other big day was the 22nd when saw 17.3 mm. As a result of the warm temperatures during the month, less than 10% of the month’s precipitation fell as snow. This compares to an average December when we would expect a 50/50 split between rain and snow.

“This deficit of snow is also evident if you consider that we should also expect to see around 10 cm of snow on the ground at the end of December.”

He’s also issued a year-end summary on the weather for 2006, and again the key word is “warm”, as it was the third-hottest year in the past century for Waterloo Region. “The average temperature for 2006 was 8.5 C, which is about 1.6 degrees above the long term average. The two hottest years on record are 1998 when the average temperature was 9.0 and then way back in 1931 when the average was 8.7.

“This is consistent with what has been found around the world for 2006. It is being reported that it will be the sixth warmest year globally, the third warmest in the US, while Spain and England are reporting 2006 as the warmest.

“At the University of Waterloo weather station, it was consistently warm in 2006 with only one month (October) coming in below average.” Winter was warm, spring was warm, and “the summer started off really warm in June and July; however, after the high temperature of the year was reached on August 1 (33.7 C) it never again got above 30.

“The fall was generally pretty average, but a couple of warmer spells in late November and mid-December put the season above average. The year ended as it began with December being one of the warmest ever recorded.”

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Flakes in the Friday flurry

[Downey]James Downey (right), president emeritus of UW, was named yesterday to be the first president of the new Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. The council is "an independent Crown agency dedicated to ensuring the continued improvement of the postsecondary education system", doing research and advising the government. Downey, who headed UW from 1993 to 1999, was previously president of the University of New Brunswick and acting president of Carleton University. Since ending his term at UW, he had been a professor of English, acting vice-president (university relations), and head of the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education, and continues to have an office in the Tatham Centre.

Staff members on the biweekly payroll get paid today, and will be the first people to see the results of federal and provincial tax changes that became effective January 1. Sandie Hurlburt of human resources summarizes: "Employment Insurance (EI) premiums have gone down in 2007: 1.80 percent of earnings (compared to 1.87 per cent in 2006) with the maximum insurable earnings for EI increasing from $39,000 to $40,000. The rate for CPP remains at 4.95 percent, but it will now be payable on income up to $43,700, rising from the 2006 maximum of $42,100. Employees are reminded that if they earned more than the maximum insurable earnings in 2006, deductions for these two government benefits will begin again with their January pay. The 'basic personal amount' will go up from $8,639 to $8,929 (federal) and $8,377 to $8,553 (provincial) in 2007. This may result in slightly lower income tax, particularly for those at lower earning levels." She notes that staff and faculty can check their pay information on myHRinfo a few days before payday (for the monthly crowd it's January 26) to see how they're affected.

[Ticket poster]Never mind the millions that Lotto 6/49 keeps offering: UW's 50th anniversary lottery is the only one that could bring you 50 gift certificates (each worth $50) for live entertainment at places like the Stratford Festival, the Centre in the Square, and Toronto theatres. The draw — the first of four big draws in the course of 2007 — will be held at the 50th anniversary launch celebration at noon next Thursday. "Tickets are available," says volunteer sales booster Tami Everding, "at the UW Shop, Feds, ODAA, the CHIP, Brubakers," and of course from her in person on the third floor of Needles Hall. They cost $5 for one, $10 for three; details are on the anniversary web site.

Tonight's the third and final evening of auditions for FASS, UW's annual variety show that has to be seen to be believed. FASS 2007, "Seven Silly Sins", is scheduled for the first week of February in the Humanities Theatre, says producer Khary Alexander. "We have repeatedly proven that a cast of 80-plus people can put on a show in one month," he says, noting that FASS is now 45 years old (in a university that's closing in on 50). "Every year we put on an original musical comedy with a cast and crew made up of Faculty, Alumni, Staff and Students. All interested actors, singers, dancers, techies and any others are invited to show up. Everyone who auditions gets a part." Auditions run from 7 to 9 tonight in Humanities room 334.

The bookstore (along with the UW Shop and TechWorx) will be open regular hours today (8 to 5) and Saturday (12 to 4), but will stay open from 8 to 7 Monday and Tuesday for beginning-of-term textbook shopping. • Sean Kimpinski of UW's central stores department is on the practice roster for the Toronto Rock of the National Lacrosse League, and hoping to crack the active lineup as the season progresses. • Nominations for the 2007-08 leadership of the Federation of Students close on January 19, not January 20 as the Feds' original announcement (and yesterday's Daily Bulletin) said.


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Yesterday's Daily Bulletin