Canada can expect to see warmer temperatures in the summer months by 2050, leading to an increase in wildfires, drought, water scarcity, lightning flash density and the risk of hailstorms. Parts of the country will see more intense winter storms, more freezing rain and precipitation, as well as a significant decline in sea ice cover and increased coastal erosion.
These are some of the findings of a research report released June 4, entitled Telling the Weather Story: Can Canada Manage the Storms Ahead? The research was commissioned by Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and conducted by Professor Gordon McBean, a renowned climate scientist from the University of Western Ontario and the Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction (ICLR).
“Both the historical and projected trends shown in the research point to the need for Canada to adapt now in order to minimize social and economic costs in the future,” McBean says in a statement.
“We hope that this research will act as a catalyst for governments, industry, communities and individuals to recognize the weather risks we are facing and to enter discussions about how to reduce their effects on Canadians’ lives and communities,” added Gregor Robinson, IBC’s senior vice president of policy and chief economist.
“Insurers are seeing the financial impacts of severe weather first-hand. Canadians are already witnessing the impact of severe weather in terms of lost lives and injuries, families displaced from their homes, and towns that are devastated.”
Catastrophic events cost Canadian insurers roughly $1.7 billion in 2011, up significantly from almost $1 billion in each of the two previous years. The majority of these insured losses were caused by extreme weather events, but smaller weather events also played a role in significant property damage for consumers.
McBean’s report projects Canadian climate patterns to 2050. It contains the following regional summaries:
• Atlantic Canada is likely to see an increase in hurricane and storm activity in the region by 2050, with resulting storm surges. Freezing rain events will likely increase by 50% in Newfoundland and by about 20% in Nova Scotia.
• Quebec should see more hot days. For Quebec City, trends point to three times as many days over 30 C than during the period from 1961 to 1990. Montreal is expected to see a 60% increase in hot days by 2050. Heavier precipitation and more freezing rain events of longer than six hours are probable. Increased forest fire frequency is projected.
• Ontario can expect summertime warming, with average temperatures likely to increase by between 2 C and 3 C. Toronto could see significantly more 30 C-plus days in summer. Frost-free days in winter in Ontario are expected to double by 2050. Research also projects heavier precipitation, more freezing rain and more frequent flash flooding. More wildfires are projected, particularly in northwestern Ontario.
• Manitoba and Saskatchewan will likely see the greatest temperature increases in winter and spring in the south, with increases of between 3 C and 4 C. Drought and water scarcity are likely to be a growing climate risk throughout the prairies. More extreme precipitation events and flooding are expected.
• Alberta will probably be hard hit by drought and water scarcity as a result of decreases in summer precipitation, falling lake levels, retreating glacier, decreasing soil-water content and a greater number of dry years. There is likely to be more hail, storms and wildfires. Lightning flash density could increase by 20 %, producing more wildfires. Heavy rainfall events could cause flash flooding. Events happening once every 20 years will occur every 10 years.
• British Columbia weather will be variable, but overall projections show warmer and wetter weather. The mountain snowpack is expected to decline. It is possible that wildfires could increase significantly in the province’s forests, by 50% or more in the period to 2050.
• In The North, the likelihood of the temperature in Iqaluit exceeding 25 C in 2050 could be five times greater than during the 1980s. There is an overall projected increase in temperature by 2 C to 4 C in the north. The fire season in the Yukon and Northwest Territories will likely increase by 10 days, increasing the frequency of evacuations and the risk of property destruction. Sea levels could be 15 cm to 25 cm higher.
The full report can be found at:
Telling The Weather Story: Dr. Gordon McBean Newsclip [Video – 1:50]:
Telling the Weather Story: Professor Gordon McBean - Full Speech [Video – 24:32]: