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

12 hour power outage planned for Sunday May 6

BC Hydro performing upgrades to aging power lines

Attracting new doctors an ongoing effort for New Denver

Community’s action on doctor shortage showing results

Puppy fighting back with support of community

Local business owner provides oxygen tank for pet with lung infection

Needles ferry service disruption

From 10 p.m. until early morning over the weekend

Tireless worker nominated as Citizen of Year

Watt recognized for running school meal programs

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Fire near Baynes Lake

On Sunday, April 22, a fire was discovered in the Baynes Lake area.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

Most Read