Monday, July 1, 2013

Happy Canada Day?: Melting Arctic Ice and Flooding

As we look back on the year that was this Canada Day, we are faced with two historic environmental disasters: Melting Arctic ice and floods in Alberta. It appears likely that the largest Arctic ice melt in recorded history may be changing weather patterns including the worst floods in Alberta's history.

In June, flooding killed four people and forced more than 100,000 out of their homes in Southern Alberta. Over the period of 24 hours 100mm of rain fell in many areas of Alberta, with some locations in the foothills seeing almost 200mm. The heavy rains, combined with the melting snow pack in the mountains caused widespread flooding along the Bow and Elbow rivers. The Bow and Elbow rivers saw flows that were five to ten times the normal rate.

Very slow moving weather systems significantly increased the amount of rain which fell on Southern Alberta which may have been a result of changes in the jet stream attributable to Arctic ice melt. According to a study by Rutgers University, the jet stream has slowed down by about 14 percent since the 1990s.

There have been a range of anamolous weather events which have been tied to the changes in the jet stream.

Calgary, Alberta's capital and the province's largest city, was hit hard by the flooding which and cut power to homes and businesses. It may take weeks or even months to restore power to the city.

In addition to loss of life and massive dislocation of people, there have been tremendous damages caused byo the floodding. The cost will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The 2013 flood has already eclipsed financial losses of the 2005 flood which cost an estimated $383 million.

Ironically, the fossil fuel companies that cause climate change were hit hard by the flooding. Many of the oil companies based in Calgary have been forced to close due to the flooding.

© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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