The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials). 😉
Main Topic: More Atmospheric River Headaches for British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest
Dear Diary. In the world of meteorology many times during a season the jet stream tends to get locked in place producing repeating patterns. Over the past decade the most stubborn of these is the dipole, or when a warm ridge gets locked over the western third of North America with a cold trough holding sway over the eastern half. With the exception of a much needed, drought relieving system affecting California, a ridge has popped up over the area again in November and appears to be stubborn to break down.
The ridge, in turn, is steering atmospheric rivers northward into British Columbia and Washington. A week ago we saw horrendous flooding in British Columbia, which definitely had climate change signatures considering precipitation amounts:
Unfortunately, another atmospheric river is poised to sweep into British Columbia starting tonight:
We wish that the next few atmospheric rivers would be steered into California and the drought plagued Southwest and Rockies, but that forecast is not in the cards looking at the message above.
The following is an article from Canada’s National Observer, which asks some hard questions after British Columbia’s first flood:
After B.C. flooding, billion-dollar questions for Canada
Damage along the Trans-Canada Highway due to extreme rain and landslides. Photo via B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure / Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
The cascading natural disasters in British Columbia have destroyed key pieces of infrastructure that experts say should trigger a nationwide risk assessment to prepare for Canada’s rapidly changing climate.
An atmospheric river dumped a month’s worth of rain on B.C., which when combined with melting snow and the mountains already scarred from a catastrophic wildfire season, led to landslides that destroyed segments of the Trans-Canada and Coquihalla highways.
“Recovering from this natural disaster will take time and a significant amount of collaboration and co-operation among all orders of government,” said Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair at a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday with other federal ministers.
“Highway and rail line damage is significant, and how we move forward in terms of a response will not only guide our emergency response efforts locally but can cascade nationally,” he said.
Natural Resources Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said the climate crisis is here, and the country will have to adapt to this reality.
“Climate change mitigation, and certainly adaptation, will have to be front and centre in the decisions that we make going forward at every level,” he said.
Wilkinson said the short-term focus is on protecting people in danger, helping those affected, and restoring transportation routes. But as the immediate crisis subsides, he said better decisions must be made.
“In the medium term, though, we will have to think about how we can build back smarter, with more resiliency in the infrastructure that we have,” he said.
Experts Canada’s National Observer spoke with said a priority should be making climate risk assessments standard practice across the country. That’s in part because infrastructure is designed to withstand weather impacts based on historic climate data –– a design standard that has little relevance in the emerging era of climate breakdown.
“Infrastructure continues to be built in that way, making it in many ways obsolete as soon as it gets built (because) it will be there for decades or even a century,” explains Canadian Institute for Climate Choices adaptation research director Ryan Ness.
Infrastructure is designed to withstand weather impacts based on historic climate data — a design standard that has little relevance in the emerging era of climate breakdown. #cdnpoli #BCStorms
“Climate change poses big risks to Canada’s infrastructure … and given that, it’s surprising that infrastructure decisions aren’t accounting for a warming climate in Canada even as we see an increasing number of climate-related disasters.”
The institute produced a report in September called Under Water that found a warming climate translates into billions of dollars of additional damage to Canadian infrastructure. Costs grow as the climate crisis deepens, but by the end of the century, flood damage costs could reach as high as $13.6 billion annually, road and railway damage could be $12.8 billion annually, and damage to the power grid could cost utilities and consumers up to $4.1 billion annually. Preventative measures to adapt can reduce those costs by 80 to 90 per cent, the report found.
The report also found that Canada lacks climate risk information, which is leading to poor decision-making. For example, available flood maps are 20 years old on average, with “virtually none” of them taking into account how climate change may impact the risk of flooding. At least 500,000 buildings are at risk of flooding and not identified by available government flood maps, the report estimates. Information on other climate risks, like wildfires, is also largely missing.
“In the absence of this information, few infrastructure owners or investors are able to assess and manage existing climate risks, let alone future risks associated with climate change,” the report found.
Novel Futures Corporation director and International Institute for Sustainable Development senior associate Darren Swanson said the disaster unfolding in B.C. is highlighting the importance of widespread risk assessments as a precursor to building resilient infrastructure — because without knowing what the risks are, it’s impossible to adequately prepare.
Swanson explained risk as a function of three things. The first is the hazard itself, like heavy rainfall. The second is the exposure to the hazard, and the third is what the vulnerability to the hazard is.
“So, infrastructure owners and operators have three dials to deal with when reducing risk, and a risk analysis or risk assessment helps you understand how to turn those dials,” he said.
“The final step of the risk assessment process is figuring out what are the mitigating measures that are the most critical based on the most critical risks,” he said.
B.C. already takes some mitigating steps to deal with natural hazards. For example, it has an avalanche safety program where staff monitor for avalanche risk, and will literally trigger avalanches by throwing explosives out of a helicopter when safe to do so.
A 2019 climate risk assessment of the province identified “extreme precipitation and landslide” risk as something that would increase in a warming climate. That assessment identified major landslides occurring once every 52 years and projected that likelihood to increase to a range of 11 to 50 years by 2050.
The assessment said that other than extreme rain contributing to landslides, the risk is largely dependent on physical characteristics like “hill slope steepness and bedrock deformation,” meaning severe risks are localized.
John Woodside / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada’s National ObserverNovember 19th 2021
Here is more climate and weather news from Wednesday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.)
Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”