Updated: Dec 24, 2018
Environment Canada published their top 10 weather stories of 2018 on their website yesterday. The list covers impactful and significant extreme weather events that occurred throughout the year. The general theme of the article seems to warn towards climate change and its causes, which ECCC emphasis' by stating:
"Canada is not as cold as it once was, with every region and all seasons warmer than ever before. While Canada is still the snowiest country, less snow is falling in our southern regions. Our mountain snowpack and glaciers are disappearing rapidly, and frost-free days are increasing."
Furthermore, the article states:
"Scientists from Environment and Climate Change Canada have concluded that the risk of western fires since 2015 has increased two to six times due to human-induced warming and that, in the Arctic, extreme sea-ice minima in recent years would have been extremely unlikely in the absence of human influences. In fact, scientists have made a clear link between climate change and extreme weather events that include heat waves, wildfires, flooding, and sea ice disappearance."
These are very strong words coming from a government agency. Climate change and its contribution to extreme weather events across the globe has been a subject of scrutinizing debate, especially in the United States over the last several years. We stand behind Environment Canada and what they are saying; the climate is changing, these are facts and we need to adapt to those changes.
While the Ottawa-Gatineau tornadoes have made the list at #5, their website reads:
"when it comes to tornadoes, it’s never possible to get an exact count. In 2018, there were 49 confirmed and possible tornadoes, which was fewer than normal. All were weak except for a killer in Alonsa, Manitoba, on August 6, which caused the first tornadic death in Canada in seven years and a family of strong tornadoes that pummeled parts of eastern Ontario and western Quebec on the last day of summer."
1. Record wildfires and smoky skies
Across Canada, the wildfire season started slowly, owing to the long, lingering winter that in some regions lasted into May. Despite the late start, national statistics showed that there were more fires than ever last year, and the total area burned was double the longer term averages. In British Columbia, spring flooding led to increased vegetation, which dried out in the hot dry summer, turning it to kindling. For the second year running, British Columbia faced a province-wide state of emergency. Nearly 2,000 wildfires ignited across the province. Though the season started late, it made up for lost time. By August 8, there were 460 simultaneous wildfires—more than any single day in 2017—with 25 of notable size. May was one of the hottest and driest on record, across British Columbia’s interior and south coast. A damp June eased the wildfire concern temporarily, but, by July, things were ramping up. Lightning on July 18 ignited forests in the Okanagan. Gusty winds and intense heat created fast-moving and aggressive fires that prompted evacuations and a state of emergency. As air temperatures soared and humidity dropped, fires spread quickly, becoming uncontrollable, going wherever winds took them. Firefighters from across Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, and New Zealand were joined by the military to battle back the blazes. By August, more than 10 million Canadians, from Victoria to the shores of Lake Superior, were breathing in the smoke from Western fires. Across the West, air-quality alerts became a fact of life for weeks, the smoke-polluted air endangering the health of the elderly, very young, and anyone living with respiratory disease. Downwind of the fires, residents in several western cities gasped and wheezed for a record number of hours as if sitting by a smouldering campfire. Alberta’s cities were especially dark and dirty, with Calgary recording 478 hours of smoke and haze (normal summer count is 12 hours) with one bout, between August 14 and 20, lasting 141 consecutive hours. Edmonton experienced 230 hours of smoke and haze, more than double its previous smokiest summer. Beautiful British Columbia didn’t look so beautiful, and, in Prairie Big Sky Country, you couldn’t see the sky for much of the summer.
2. Canada affected by global summer heat wave
Across the globe, summer 2018 was the third warmest on record. Torrid heat stretched from Japan to Great Britain to California, and Canada was also affected. May brought an early summer that persisted relentlessly through August, even longer in the East. For millions in the southern part of Canada, it was the third-warmest summer on record. On some days, heat warnings prevailed, from Vancouver Island to Newfoundland, with some regions hitting a humidex in the mid-40s. It’s rare for a heat-humid wave to grip so much of the country for so long, but two semi-permanent blocking highs persisted on either side of the country throughout the summer—a Bermuda High parked over the Atlantic Ocean and a California High stalled over the Pacific Coast. The result was a dome that blocked in the hot summer air and kept wetter weather out. Millions in the East sweated it out through a sweltering heat wave that hit in time for the Canada Day long weekend, lasting from late June to the end of the first week of July—the longest and most intense heat spell in years. In Ottawa, it was the second-warmest Canada Day ever, with records going back to the 1880s. Further, the humidex reached a high of 47, the highest ever recorded in the nation’s capital. Across the Ottawa River, in Gatineau, the humidex reached a record 48. It was likely the worst combination of heat and humidity ever experienced in the National Capital Region. Understandably, attendance at afternoon celebrations on Parliament Hill dropped from an expected 20,000 to 6,000. In Montréal, Urgences-santé experienced a 30 per cent increase in emergency calls. Across Quebec, 93 people died from heat-related complications. July and August combined were the hottest on record in Atlantic Canada, and the humidity only added to the discomfort. In July, cities in all four Atlantic Provinces recorded highest-ever average temperature, including Halifax, which had more than two straight weeks with maximum temperatures of 25 °C, shattering the previous record set in 1876. In Saskatchewan, three cities broke all-time high temperature records—Regina set an August record with a high of 41.3 °C on August 11, with records dating back to 1883. On the same day, Moose Jaw’s temperature rose to a record 42.3 °C—two degrees away from Canada’s warmest high ever recorded. But it was Calgary’s new all-time record on August 10 that made national headlines as the temperature hit 36.5 °C, with records dating back to 1881.
3. Hot and dry to snow-filled skies blunt the Prairie harvest
Prairie growers and ranchers faced enormous challenges during a tough growing season. With the frost line two-metres deep in places, the long, cold spring kept farmers off their fields until mid-May. Then came drought through the southern and central Prairies where, between April and August, they received less than 60 per cent of the average rainfall. In some places, rainfall totals were the lowest in at least 40 years. For some producers, it was the third dry year in a row. In Regina, back-to-back drought years in 2017 and 2018 were the driest on record spanning 135 years. When sweltering heat arrived in July and August, crops shrivelled. Cattle producers and dairy farmers faced dwindling stocks of feed grain and rising prices, forcing some to sell off their cattle and dairy cows prematurely. In Val Marie, Saskatchewan, rainfall in the growing season was a paltry 72 mm—less than a third of normal. At a farm near Val Marie, the hay yield was 32 bales per acre, compared to 210 last year, and amounted to less than a third of what would be needed for winter. The seasons jumped from summer to winter as temperatures plunged and rain changed to snow when a cold-air mass out of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories invaded the Prairies in the second week of September and didn’t budge until mid-October. September frost is normal, but six weeks of cold and snow is unprecedented. A vast majority of the crops, upwards of $4 billion worth, was still on the fields and was flattened by record snows that made it impossible to combine. Farmers watched their crop quality being downgraded day by cold day until it bottomed out at feed grade. The miserable harvest weather was nowhere worse than in Alberta. Undoubtedly, Edmonton had its most miserable September on record. Afternoon temperatures averaged a record 6.6 °C colder than normal and a record 38.4 cm of snow fell compared to a normal of 1 cm. October was Calgary’s turn for weather misery. During the first two days of the month, a total of 38 cm of snow fell at the airport, breaking the record for any October day in 138 years.
To read the full list, you can do so by going here: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/top-ten-weather-stories/2018.html#toc0