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John H. Pedlar, Daniel W. McKenney, Kevin Lawrence, Pia Papadopol, Michael F. Hutchinson, and David Price


This study produced annual spatial models (or grids) of 27 growing-season variables for Canada that span two centuries (1901–2100). Temporal gaps in the availability of daily climate data—the typical and preferred source for calculating growing-season variables—necessitated the use of two approaches for generating these growing-season grids. The first approach, used only for the 1950–2010 period, employed a computer script to directly calculate the suite of growing-season variables from existing daily climate grids. Since daily grids were not available for the remaining years, a second approach, which employed a machine-learning method called boosted regression trees (BRT), was used to generate statistical models that related each growing-season variable to a suite of climate and water-related predictors. These BRT models were used to generate grids of growing-season variables for each year of the study period, including the 1950–2010 period to allow comparison between the two approaches. Mean absolute errors associated with the BRT-based grids were approximately 30% higher than those associated with the daily-based grids. The two approaches were also compared by calculating trends in growing-season length over the 1950–2010 period. Significant increases in growing-season length were obtained for nearly all ecozones across Canada, and there were no significant differences in the trends obtained from the two approaches. Although the daily-based approach tended to have lower errors, the BRT approach produced comparable map products that should be valuable for periods and regions for which daily data are not available.

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Heather MacDonald, Daniel W. McKenney, Xiaolan L. Wang, John Pedlar, Pia Papadopol, Kevin Lawrence, Yang Feng, and Michael F. Hutchinson


This study presents spatial models (i.e., thin-plate spatially continuous spline surfaces) of adjusted precipitation for Canada at daily, pentad (5 day), and monthly time scales from 1900 to 2015. The input data include manual observations from 3346 stations that were adjusted previously to correct for snow water equivalent (SWE) conversion and various gauge-related issues. In addition to the 42 331 models for daily total precipitation and 1392 monthly total precipitation models, 8395 pentad models were developed for the first time, depicting mean precipitation for 73 pentads annually. For much of Canada, mapped precipitation values from this study were higher than those from the corresponding unadjusted models (i.e., models fitted to the unadjusted data), reflecting predominantly the effects of the adjustments to the input data. Error estimates compared favorably to the corresponding unadjusted models. For example, root generalized cross-validation (GCV) estimate (a measure of predictive error) at the daily time scale was 3.6 mm on average for the 1960–2003 period as compared with 3.7 mm for the unadjusted models over the same period. There was a dry bias in the predictions relative to recorded values of between 1% and 6.7% of the average precipitations amounts for all time scales. Mean absolute predictive errors of the daily, pentad, and monthly models were 2.5 mm (52.7%), 0.9 mm (37.4%), and 11.2 mm (19.3%), respectively. In general, the model skill was closely tied to the density of the station network. The current adjusted models are available in grid form at ~2–10-km resolutions.

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Michael F. Hutchinson, Dan W. McKenney, Kevin Lawrence, John H. Pedlar, Ron F. Hopkinson, Ewa Milewska, and Pia Papadopol


The application of trivariate thin-plate smoothing splines to the interpolation of daily weather data is investigated. The method was used to develop spatial models of daily minimum and maximum temperature and daily precipitation for all of Canada, at a spatial resolution of 300 arc s of latitude and longitude, for the period 1961–2003. Each daily model was optimized automatically by minimizing the generalized cross validation. The fitted trivariate splines incorporated a spatially varying dependence on ground elevation and were able to adapt automatically to the large variation in station density over Canada. Extensive quality control measures were performed on the source data. Error estimates for the fitted surfaces based on withheld data across southern Canada were comparable to, or smaller than, errors obtained by daily interpolation studies elsewhere with denser data networks. Mean absolute errors in daily maximum and minimum temperature averaged over all years were 1.1° and 1.6°C, respectively. Daily temperature extremes were also well matched. Daily precipitation is challenging because of short correlation length scales, the preponderance of zeros, and significant error associated with measurement of snow. A two-stage approach was adopted in which precipitation occurrence was estimated and then used in conjunction with a surface of positive precipitation values. Daily precipitation occurrence was correctly predicted 83% of the time. Withheld errors in daily precipitation were small, with mean absolute errors of 2.9 mm, although these were relatively large in percentage terms. However, mean percent absolute errors in seasonal and annual precipitation totals were 14% and 9%, respectively, and seasonal precipitation upper 95th percentiles were attenuated on average by 8%. Precipitation and daily maximum temperatures were most accurately interpolated in the autumn, consistent with the large well-organized synoptic systems that prevail in this season. Daily minimum temperatures were most accurately interpolated in summer. The withheld data tests indicate that the models can be used with confidence across southern Canada in applications that depend on daily temperature and accumulated seasonal and annual precipitation. They should be used with care in applications that depend critically on daily precipitation extremes.

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Daniel W. McKenney, Michael F. Hutchinson, Pia Papadopol, Kevin Lawrence, John Pedlar, Kathy Campbell, Ewa Milewska, Ron F. Hopkinson, David Price, and Tim Owen

Over the past two decades, researchers at Natural Resources Canada's Canadian Forest Service, in collaboration with the Australian National University (ANU), Environment Canada (EC), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), have made a concerted effort to produce spatial climate products (i.e., spatial models and grids) covering both Canada and the United States for a wide variety of climate variables and time steps (from monthly to daily), and across a range of spatial resolutions. Here we outline the method used to generate the spatial models, detail the array of products available and how they may be accessed, briefly describe some of the usage and impact of the models, and discuss anticipated further developments. Our initial motivation in developing these models was to support forestry-related applications. They have since been utilized by a wider range of agencies and researchers. This article is intended to further raise awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of these climate models and to facilitate their wider application.

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