A jogger passes a man walking along a foggy pathway Friday in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

If 2017 weather was a downer, you ain’t seen nothing yet: Environmental Defence

‘We will have more wacky weather in 2018 … as the world continues to warm’

When it comes to extreme weather, 2018 has a throwdown message for last year’s show of hurricanes, forest fires and non-stop rainfall: hold my beer.

Predicting when and where extreme weather will hit can be difficult, if not downright impossible. But Tim Gray, executive director of Environmental Defence Canada, said Friday he has no doubt it will happen.

“I can say with certainty that we will have more wacky weather in 2018, and quite likely more than we did in 2017, as the world continues to warm,” Gray said in an interview.

For those who might have already blocked 2017 from memory, here’s a quick refresher: record heat and dry days in western Canada that fuelled B.C.’s most devastating forest fire season ever, while in Central Canada, it refused to stop raining and summer was missing in action.

The United States had one of its worst hurricane seasons ever, while parts of Europe suffered through deadly heat waves that led to forest fires and even the closing of summer ski hills in Italy and Austria for the first time in 90 years. Australia had the third-hottest year ever recorded in 2017.

The Swiss Reinsurance Company says insured losses from natural disasters in 2017 are expected to top US$130 billion, twice the US$58 billion average of the last 10 years.

Greenhouse gases like carbon and methane sit and gather in the earth’s atmosphere, where they trap heat as energy — and energy drives climate, said Gray: the more energy in the atmosphere, the more extreme weather. And the amount of carbon in the atmosphere grows each year.

And while some tried to use the recent North American cold snap as evidence that global warming is a myth, it actually proves the opposite, he added.

Climate change doesn’t mean backyard barbecues in February, said Gray. Rather, weather patterns of the past are being disrupted, with the influential jet stream breaking down and moving around more, leaving the climate more vulnerable to sudden shifts and extreme events in every direction.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution — an international partnership of researchers from the University of Oxford, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the University of Melbourne and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre — use historical records and climate modelling based on existing carbon levels in the atmosphere to look at weather events and whether they are linked to climate change.

The aptly named Lucifer heat wave, which hit parts of France, Italy and Croatia in August, was made 10 times more likely by climate change, the group concluded, and Australia’s hot 2017 60 times more likely. The rainfall that followed Hurricane Harvey in Houston was three times more likely, their research suggests.

And the cold snap? Climate change has meant such spells are actually less frequent and warmer than they have been in the past.

That said, both Gray and the World Weather Attribution agree no one weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, because there have always been weather extremes. Climate change makes those extremes more frequent and the transition period from one extreme to another far faster, Gray said.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Mount Washington opening for winter season this weekend

The resort’s original opening day was delayed due to lack of snow

IIO doesn’t recommend charges after motorcyclist death in Mill Bay

An off-duty VicPD officer was involved in the crash

New wind warning for most of Vancouver Island

Forecasters are calling for strong winds up to 90km/h for some areas

Two boats reported in trouble in Cowoichan Bay on Dec. 13

Coast Guard responds, but finds only one vessel that required assistance

VIDEO: Kitten rescued from under school bus in Duncan

School staff have affectionately called kitten “Axle”

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Woman guilty of impaired driving in death of Vancouver Island pedestrian

Man in his 70s killed in 2016 Courtenay multi-vehicle incident

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Most Read