by: Shannon Wallace

This week has probably been the most exciting yet for our project because we finally started working on it in a more hands-on way.

With our initial planning and writing of proposals finished, this past week has been dedicated to downloading and exploring data sets from the Government of Canada’s Historical Data site. We gathered temperature, precipitation and ice cover data for different spots along the St. Lawrence. Once we had this data, we were able to go off and work with it. 

Each of us focused on a different variable (temperature, precipitation or ice cover) and played around with its data using Matlab, a great coding program used for plotting graphs and other complex math functions.

We came to class on Monday with a few graphs each to see if anything stood out. For temperature and ice cover graphs, we saw a cyclical pattern of increasing and decreasing values throughout each year. We expected this because they clearly change with the seasons and we were relieved the data reflected it. It was concerning that our rainfall graphs didn’t show much of a pattern so we’ll need to see if there are other factors that come into play here. 

A snippet of code from Matlab we used to graph the daily average temperatures in Rimouski, QC for each day of the year from 1970 to 2018.

One thing that we talked about was how we would separate the year into seasons so we can track each one’s evolution throughout our period of study (1970 to 2018). We initially wanted to split the year evenly into four (winter, spring, summer and fall), but then we realized that the lengths of seasons are changing. For example, longer winters and summers are slowly taking bits away from either end of fall.

This change would be hard to keep track of, especially since we’re using a coding software. Moving forward, we’ll have to use patterns that we see in our graphs and data to figure out new ways to easily identify seasons (e.g. the number of days above or below zero degrees may be an indicator). 

We’ll definitely have a lot to work on in the following weeks but so far, we’ve made a great base for what’s to come!