How Global Warming Affects Canada

Sunday, October 08, 2006
The Edmonton Journal ran a week long series on global warming and climate change last week. The parts of the series I was able to read (I DO work once in a while you know...) were fascinating. I managed to save the article from Tuesday's paper (October 3, 2006) which included the following information on how global warming is affecting different parts of Canada (note: I have not been able to find an online link to the article on the Journal's website):

British Columbia
- Winters are no longer cold enough to kill the mountain pine beetle infestion more than eight million hectares of BC forest, an area the size of New Brunswick. There is concern the epidemic will spread east across northern forests as temperatures climb.
-Skiers from around the world arrived at Whistler last christmas to find much of the mountain covered in slush, not snow. A degree or two can - and is expected to - make a big difference in ski country.

The Prairies (my area)
- Alpine glaciers feeding prairie rivers, including the Bow, South Saskatchewan and Athabasca, have shrunk by 25 percent in the last century and the prairies could soon face severe water shortages.
- The incidence of forest fires in Alberta increased to five times the 10-year average in 2002.
- Most rural residences in Manitoba and Saskatchewan depend on groundwater, which could run dry as the climate warms. One federal report warns aquifers in Manitoba's Red River valley could become too salty to drink.

Ontario
- Since 1980, Canada has lost an average of 2.4 million hectares to forest fires each year, a 140 percent increase over the previous 30 years. More than 300 fires were burning in northern Ontario this fall.
- On August 19, 2005, a line of severe thunderstorms swung eastward across southern Ontario from Kitchener to Oshawa, dumping 80 to 180 mm of rain across the northern half of Toronto, leaving a trail of damages totalling over $500 million - the greatest insured loss in the province's history.
- Toronto had 70 percent more extreme heat days in the last 10 years - 16 days over 30C between 1995 and 2005 compared to just 9.5 days between 1961 to 1990.
- The Great Lakes are expected to drop by up to a metre this century, compounding problems already faced by the cities, power utilities, shipping companies, and cottagers and campers.

Quebec
- As the level of the Great Lakes drops there could be impacts in Montreal, where there may not be enough water to bring ocean liners into the city's harbour.
- The 1998 ice storm was unprecedented in its magnitude and impact. It was directly linked to 28 deaths in Canada, over 900 injuries and $5 billion in damage as communication towers and power lines collapsed. It caused a massive power failure that left 3.5 million Canadians without power, more than 10 percent of the country's population.

Atlantic Provinces
- The north shore of Prince Edward Island, the Gulf of New Brunswick, much of the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia and parts of Charlottetown and Saint John (NB) are highly sensitive to sea-level rise and prone to flooding. Multimillion-dollar floods are expected.

The North
- Summer arctic sea ice has decreased in extent by 30 percent over the past 30 years. Close to two million square kilometres of sea ice has been lost since 1979, an area roughly twice the size of Ontario. The fabled Northwest Passage could soon be open for summer shipping traffic.

Other interesting facts:
- Trees and shrubs are sprouting on the once-barren Arctic tundra. There are predictions that Canada's forests could eventually shift north by as much as 500 kilometres.
- Dikes around Vancouver airport and Richmond, home to 182,000 residents, will have to be built higher to keep back the sea, which could rise as much as a metre this century.
- A rainstorm in Iqaluit last February was a first for the usually bitterly cold month. There has been a 25 to 45 percent increase in precipitation over most of Nunavut in the last 50 years.

The Edmonton Journal cites as it's sources Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Canadian Climate Impacts and Adaptation Research Network, and the Institute of Catastrophic Loss Reduction.

2 comments:

Candy Minx said...

Oi, boy...good times huh? Well, the good news is...we have always been worried about weather changes and land changes. Being worried is a human and wise thing. I recorded two programs on Discovery this weekend...about the life of the neandrathal and "Ice Age Columbus". Ice Age Columbus turned out to be a movie of sorts, following half a dozen people 17,000 years ago. Even though they were hunter-gatherers and not subject to civilizations ravages, they were vulnerable to constant weather change...and through luck and skill the narrative of these characters told a story of some of them survivng, under much more frightening and challenging weather changes than even thse seem to be in this list. I'ts very humbling to think of the idea that we have always been in cirsis for food, water and survival. In some pollyanna way, I am going to think that this very list you made here, programs about such histories and problem solving...maybe maybe we can adapt, maybe we can prevent? I don't know, Karen...I wonder, what are we supposed to do? It feels like we worry about this alone...and it seems to be that we need to worry as a group. No matter how one feels about the current President of the Untied States...as an example...I was a little surprised a few weeks ago. In America, they really idolize and respect their leader. The nature of the presidents role is to be ona pedestal...and yet...he made his "addicted to oil" speech...remember? I figured, wow, the people who beleive in him will stop driving now...and quite a huge change will occur that we should be able to see after this speech. Nothing. People still in traffic jams. I mean if their President can say something like theya re addicted to oil, and still nobody does anything...well what chance for change do all of us have? I really am coming to the belief that we will have to be pushed intoa corner to react...rather than prepare. Maybe that is our nature?

Anonymous said...

this really is helpful! thank you.

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