Climatology and Climate Change 101 - By : Charles Alexandre,

Climatology and Climate Change 101

The Climate Science Summer School was held from May 26 to June 1, 2019, in Saint-Irénée, Charlevoix. This is a translation of the original French article.

Charles Alexandre
Charles Alexandre Author profile
A PhD student in Environmental Engineering at ÉTS, Charles Alexandre is interested in climate change and improvements in life cycle analysis (LCA).

Global warming

Purchased on Copyright.

Climate Science Summer School

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it is still an excellent way to learn. I like to understand my surroundings. Initially, I felt that my thesis project was an opportunity to better understand life cycle analysis and the impacts of climate change. With a bachelor’s degree is in Construction Engineering, I quickly realized that I needed a climatology manual “For Dummies”.

Enter the Climate Science Summer School, an extra training session organized jointly by professors Alain Mailhot (NISR’s Eau Terre Environnement Research Centre) and François Brissette (ÉTS). This intensive one-week workshop is hosted every two years and intended for students and researchers working in the field, or on a project related to it. The objectives were:

  • To present the basic concepts of climatology;
  • To become familiar with climate science concepts, fundamentals, and terminology used in the analysis of climate change impacts and adaptation;
  • To provide an overview of the current knowledge on historical trends and climate projections for key climate variables;
  • To understand the key mechanisms involved in climate change;
  • To identify the major anticipated impacts of climate change on different activity sectors.

Melting Earth as a result of global warming


A typical day has two parts. Experienced trainers—many of whom hold research positions at Ouranos—start with lectures where they give us as much information as possible, for example on paleoclimatology or modeling and climate projections. The lectures are followed by team work on the new skills taught by the experts, who are available to answer questions (in connection with the work, and even with our personal projects).

The surroundings were as fascinating as the topics. We stayed at Domaine Forget, in Sainte-Irénée, near La Malbaie. During our breaks, we could indulge in the blissful contemplation of a passing ship and put some of the disturbing facts that we learned in class into perspective.


My interest in this training stemmed (as might be obvious) from my thesis subject: integrating the modified albedo“Albedo is part of the energy from the sunlight that casts back into the atmosphere.Ref. WorldAtlas caused by logging into the dynamic analysis of forest product life cycles. I spent seven days with people of all ages, backgrounds, and careers. We shared, computed, drafted, argued, read, drank lots of coffee, and roasted huge, gooey and funny marshmallows offered by the coordinators (as claimed on the packaging!)


St. Lawrence River in Charlevoix

View of the St. Lawrence River during breaks at the 2019 Climate Science Summer School


Review of the Week

It was an amazing and somewhat bewildering experience. But anyone not dazzled by the mass of knowledge was probably not the target of this activity. I was quickly overwhelmed by the intensity and specificity of knowledge. However, I was reassured by the realization that we all felt the same way, to different extents. Indeed, even writing a third version of task 3 on feedbacks—with bulging eyes and the brain still tangled up in palynology”The scientific field concerned with the analysis of pollen and spores from plants, and minuscule planktonic entities (…), both alive and in fossil form”. Ref. WorldAtlas, I had no regrets. On the one hand, I kept in mind that my colleagues were going through the same thing. On the other hand, the newly acquired concepts are now very useful: for example, after the workshop, I found some weaknesses in the hypotheses outlined in an article on climate I had read the week before.

Finally, picture five exhausted people on the way back singing Bohemian Rhapsody out loud with one of the coordinators while crossing the Champlain Bridge—Priceless! I got support from the FDDAÉÉTS for my initiative, and I am grateful because I came back with personal enrichment that was totally unexpected. Sharing with the other participants helped me realize that research attracts me for all the right reasons and convinced me to go directly into a PhD and expand my already exciting project.

I know I will be feeling my way in my area of research, but I am motivated and inquisitive enough to develop the skills that will be essential in my new career. The Climate Science Summer School is an example of additional tools available to expand your knowledge on a subject. Just be curious and on the lookout!

Charles Alexandre

Author's profile

A PhD student in Environmental Engineering at ÉTS, Charles Alexandre is interested in climate change and improvements in life cycle analysis (LCA).

Program : Environmental Engineering 

Research laboratories : Steppe - Experimental Station for Pilot Processes in the Environment (STEPPE) 

Author profile

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