Climatological analysis of recent data from the Athabasca oil sands area

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  • This report is a climatological analysis of recent data from the Athabasca Oil Sands area. Data sources included the MAPS network of automatic meteorological data acquisition, forestry lookout stations, minisondes, snow pack surveys, and the Atmospheric Environment Service observing station at Fort McMurray. The data were analysed using a computer package of statistical subroutines. It was found that large variations existed in the mean values of meteorological data from the the MAPS network. These variations were the results of statistical fluctuations due to the short period of record and terrain differences. To reduce the variations, MAPS temperature and precipitation were correlated with Fort McMurray values. Mean monthly values of temperature were well estimated by Fort McMurray values throughout the year and by forestry station measurements in summer. However, mean monthly precipitation was not reliably estimated by this technique. While the duration of summer rainfall correlated well with station elevation, rainfall amount varied considerably between MAPS and forestry station, due in part to the convective component of summer precipitation. Surface winds were found to be strongly controlled by terrain. Speeds were generally higher at exposed locations and lower at low elevations. Terrain-induced flows were predominant during winter and autumn months, and during summer and spring evenings. Diurnal variation in direction due to surface heating was noted during summer and spring but was not dominant. A poorly defined veer of less than 20° was observed between the surface and 400-m wind directions in all seasons except winter. In winter, differences in direction between the two levels were apparently random due to flow decoupling in stable conditions. Minisonde data exhibited expected trends to increased instability in afternoon hours and during spring and summer months, especially in the lowest layer. The most common stability categories at all levels in all seasons were neutral and slightly stable.The report concludes with two important recommendations. The first is that thorough quality control checks be implemented before new data sets are used for analysis. The second and farther reaching is that meteorological data requirements in the Athabasca OiI Sands area be reassessed before meso-scale monitoring is reactivated.

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