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Reference Deck

February 2012
Key Climate Change Impacts
in Canada
Page 2 28 September 2012


To review past Canadian and international research on climate
change impacts

To provide a summary of observed trends in temperature and
precipitation across Canada, as well as examples of some
impacts of these changes that are already observed

To highlight near-term climate change projections
Page 3 28 September 2012

The impacts of climate change are already evident across Canada
Temperatures have increased and precipitation patterns have changed,
leading to a wide range of impacts, including:
Reduced Arctic ice cover
Changes in timing and amount of surface water available
Increased evaporation leading to lower levels in the Great Lakes
Increased depth and extent of permafrost thaw
Shorter season and decreased quality of Northern ice roads
Increased loss of forests due to pests and wildfires
More frequent droughts and flooding
In addition to gradual shifts in temperature and precipitation, changes in
extreme weather events, sea level, storm surges, and sea ice have
been observed and are projected to continue
Knowledge of current and projected impacts of, and vulnerability to, a
changing climate is essential for future planning and decision making

Page 4 28 September 2012

Canada Country Study: Climate Impacts and Adaptation (1998)
Regional reports, sectoral studies and cross cutting issues related to climate impacts
and adaptation in Canada
Led by Environment Canada
Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation: A Canadian Perspective (2004)
Overview of research in the field of climate change impacts and adaptation
Led by Natural Resources Canada
From Impacts to Adaptation: Canada in a Changing Climate (2008)
Presents conclusions regarding current and future impacts of, and vulnerabilities to,
climate change in Canada
Led by Natural Resources Canada
Human Health in a Changing Climate: A Canadian Assessment of Vulnerabilities
and Adaptive Capacity (2008)
The first comprehensive assessment of health vulnerabilities to climate change in
Led by Health Canada
NRTEE Climate Prosperity Series (2010, 2011)
Policy analysis and advice to governments on both the economic risks and
opportunities for Canada associated with a warming planet
Over the last 20 years, a number of research
initiatives have investigated the impacts of climate
change, both in Canada...
Page 5 28 September 2012

Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (2005)
Describes ongoing climate change in the Arctic and its consequences
Guided by the intergovernmental Arctic Council and the non-governmental International
Arctic Science Committee

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Assessment Reports (1990, 1995,
2001, 2007)
Established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World
Meteorological Organization
Each report presented the current state of knowledge in climate change and its
potential impacts
Environment Canada provides ongoing contributions of science-based quantitative
climate research

... and internationally
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Between 1948 and 2010, temperatures in Canada increased faster than the
global average
The average temperature of the Earth's surface increased by 0.7C
The average temperature in Canada rose 1.6C
The average temperature in Canada's North rose 2.1C
2010 was a temperature record-breaking year in Canada
Warmest year on record, with temperatures about 3C warmer than normal
14th consecutive year with above-normal temperatures
There are, on average, 20 more days of rain per year today compared with
the 1950s
Average precipitation has increased by about 12 percent across the country,
with strong regional variability
Annual and seasonal rainfall has increased in most of Canada, especially in the
Snowfall has increased in the North and decreased in southwestern Canada

The Canadian climate is changing, with warming
temperatures and changing precipitation patterns
1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015

South of 60N
North of 60N
Trend for N. of 60: +2.1C
Trend for S. of 60: +1.2C
Trend for Canada: +1.6C
Global trend: 0.7C
Mean Temperature Departures and Long-Term Trends
1948 2010
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There is significant regional variability in observed climate
changes across Canada
The greatest temperature increases were in the Yukon and
Northwest Territories
Precipitation has increased most in the high Arctic, while parts of
the Prairies have seen a decrease
Southern BC and southeastern Canada have seen significant
increases in spring and autumn precipitation
Most of southern Canada has experienced a significant decline in
winter precipitation

Indicators of climate change vary significantly
among regions of Canada
Page 9 28 September 2012

Arctic ice is disappearing rapidly
The Arctic ice retreat of 2011 was the second biggest on record
after 2007
In the Canadian Arctic, sea ice coverage reached a record low in
September 2011 with less than half of the September average
This record low surpassed the previous record by 20 percent
September 2011 also set new record low levels of sea ice in both
the Northern and Southern routes of the Northwest Passage
Northern Arctic ice shelves have undergone significant changes
in the last 100 years
At the beginning of the 20th century, one large ice shelf spanned
the entire northwest coast of Ellesmere Island
By the beginning of the 21st century, this large ice shelf had been
eroded into 6 smaller remnant ice shelves
As of the end of summer 2011, only 3 ice shelves remain

Sea Ice Cover 1979 Sea Ice Cover 2003
Page 11 28 September 2012

The longer summer shipping season in the North can increase access to
northern communities and provide benefits for port cities and towns
Increased marine traffic in Hudson Bay could encourage significant use of
the port of Churchill
Reduced ice cover in the Beaufort Sea will increase the appeal of
offshore resource development, and will raise the potential to ship oil
and gas westward through the Bering Strait
Tourism is already increasing in the North, and longer travel seasons
and new transportation options will contribute to further growth
There has been a doubling of cruise ship voyages in the Arctic over the last
5 years
The linking of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans is altering animal ranges
and opening new pathways for disease
Bowhead whales from the separate Pacific and Atlantic populations have
crossed paths in the Canadian Arctic (spring 2010)
Transmission of a seal-killing virus from the Atlantic Ocean to a population
of Pacific sea otters in Alaska (2009)
Reduced ice cover in Arctic waters is increasing
access to the North and is connecting the Atlantic
and Pacific oceans
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Reduced snow accumulation and glacier retreat have led to
declining streamflows, and increased spring precipitation coupled
with an earlier snow melt have led to earlier peak flow periods

Declining streamflows are already an issue for many rivers in the
southern Prairies
Streamflow in the South Saskatchewan River has been decreasing
over the last 100 years, with the lowest recorded flow on record
occurring in 2001
In 2006, the Alberta government stopped accepting new
applications for water allocations in the Oldman, Bow and South
Saskatchewan River sub-basins

Temperature increases and precipitation changes
impact water availability
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Higher surface and water temperatures cause
increased evaporation in the Great Lakes,
contributing to lower water levels
Average surface temperatures in the Great Lakes have
increased over the past decades
Between 1968 and 2002, Lake Huron warmed 2.9C, Lake Ontario
increased by 1.6C, and Lake Erie by 0.9C
Lake Superior has warmed by 2.5C since 1980
The season of ice cover has been shortened by about one to two
months during the last 100 to 150 years
Extended shipping season will likely not compensate for losses in
cargo capacity due to lower lake levels
Higher temperature and shorter ice cover season increases
evaporation which lowers water levels
Record low levels in 2001 caused an $11.25 million decrease in
shipping business volume
Every further 2.5 cm decline in water levels forces ships to reduce
their load by as much as 180 tonnes
Lake Huron
Georgian Bay
Page 17 28 September 2012

Temperatures in the permafrost have risen by up to 2C over the last
20-30 years
A general increase in the depth to which the ground thaws in summer
was observed through the 1990s
The southern limit of the permafrost retreated northward by 130 km
during the past 50 years in Northern Quebec
Warming permafrost and increased thaw depth have a number of
negative consequences for the North:
Shorter winter road season
Ground settlement under infrastructure projects
Drainage changes, leading to expansion or draining of wetlands and lakes
Risks to existing waste containment
Increased erosion rates
Permafrost thaw has already impacted EC operations in Eureka, NU
Permafrost containment in both the freshwater and sewage lagoons is failing
Slumping is impacting buildings, roadways
The runway is now too soft to support large aircraft in the summer months
Permafrost thawing has a wide range of impacts in
the North
Herschel Island, Yukon
Page 19 28 September 2012

Ice roads are used to provide essential goods to remote northern
Since 1940, the ice roads in northern Manitoba have been open for
an average of 50 days per year
Shorter seasons and poor winter road conditions cause
shortages of food, fuel and medical supplies, as well as increase
the need to fly in supplies
The cost of shipping goods by air is two to three times higher
than shipping by ground transportation on winter roads
In 1997-98, the Manitoba ice roads could not be opened and 10
million litres of fuel and 1 million kg of food had to be airlifted to
communities at a cost of $50 million
In 2010, ice roads were open for less than a month, costing the
province of Manitoba $9 million
Remote and northern communities rely on extensive
winter road networks that are at risk due to
increased temperatures
Page 21 28 September 2012

While no single event can be attributed to climate change,
increasing temperatures are expected to cause increased aridity
and more frequent drought
Impacts of the extreme drought of 2001-2003 were far-reaching,
though hardest hit were agricultural producers in Alberta and
Alberta's crop production loss was about $413 million in 2001 and
$1.33 billion in 2002 while Saskatchewan was $925 million in 2001
and $1.49 billion in 2002
More than 41,000 jobs were lost, and GDP was reduced by $5.8

Increased temperatures can exacerbate drought
Extent of Dryness in Canadian Prairies
September 2002
July 2001 July 2002
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The mountain pine beetle is native to North America and normally plays
an important role in the life of a forest; however, a number of factors
have contributed to the current epidemic
Unusually hot, dry summers have caused drought-stress in the trees and
made them less able to defend against beetles
Mild winters have increased overwinter survival rates and contributed to
long-distance dispersal of adult beetles
The cumulative area of B.C. affected by the mountain pine beetle is
estimated at 17.5 million hectares
The mountain pine beetle has now killed a cumulative total of 726 million
cubic metres of timber since the current infestation began
This epidemic is estimated to directly result in the closure of 16 lumber mills
and up to 8000 jobs by 2018
To respond to the epidemic, the federal and B.C. governments have already
spent approximately $1 billion; Alberta has further allocated $210 million
If warming trends continue, the threat of eastern expansion will increase
In Alberta, large areas of mature pine forest along the eastern slopes of the
Rockies are highly vulnerable to beetle attack
Drought-stressed forests are more susceptible to
Cumulative Percentage of Pine Killed by the
Mountain Pine Beetle in British Columbia
Page 25 28 September 2012

Forests stressed by warmer, drier conditions and forest pests
can present highly flammable conditions and lead to an increase
in area affected by wildfires
The average area burned by fire has increased
In 10 years, the average area burned per fire in British Columbia
has more than tripled, from 125 hectares in the 1990s to over
400 hectares in the early 2000s
The 2004 summer in Yukon was the warmest on record and the
area burned was more than twice the previous record
The previous decade has seen the three most expensive in
terms of direct firefighting costs fire seasons in British
Columbia's history
The average cost of fighting wildfires in BC is $115 million
In 2003, 2009 and 2010, the province spent $375 million,
$400 million and $230 million respectively
Drought and pest-stressed forests lead to an
increased area affected by wildfires
1999 2010
Summary of Number and Magnitude of
Wildfires in British Columbia
Page 27 28 September 2012

Global sea levels are rising
Global sea levels have risen 17 centimetres
In Atlantic Canada, sea level has risen approximately
30 centimetres

Sea level rise, the reduction of sea-ice cover, a shorter sea-ice
period and a reduction in permafrost expose soft shores to the
effects of waves and storms and significantly impact coastal
The Sept-les shoreline is experiencing land losses of up to
8 metres per year
Coastal erosion rates in excess of 5 metres per year have been
measured at Chezzetcook, Nova Scotia
Between 1974 and 2004, the coast at Cascumpec Bay, Prince
Edward Island retreated 115 metres

Changes in global sea levels have been observed
over the last century
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Sea level rise and changes in precipitation patterns can increase the
risks associated with storms
Sea level rise increases the frequency of higher storm surges
Rising sea level causes flooding in higher, previously immune areas
and more frequent flooding in low-lying areas
Recent events in Atlantic Canada highlight the vulnerabilities of
coastal infrastructure
In 2003, Hurricane Juan caused more than $200 million in property,
infrastructure and environmental damage
In 2010, Hurricane Igor resulted in $65 million in insurable claims (the
largest weather-related insurance claim in Newfoundland and Labrador
in recent history), and non-insured costs of >$120 million
In 2010, Hurricane Tomas caused insurance-covered property
damages of $100 million; infrastructure damages were estimated at
$200 million
An increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events
has prompted several Ontario municipalities to retrofit storm-water
infrastructure to accommodate heavier rainfall events
The north Toronto flood in August 2005 caused extensive flooding and
infrastructure damage and over $500 million in insured losses
Extreme weather events highlight the vulnerability
of communities and infrastructure
Flooding due to storm
surges in New Brunswick
and Prince Edward Island,
December 2010
Page 31 28 September 2012

Global sea surface temperatures have risen approximately 1C
in the last century

Warmer temperatures impact the availability of oxygen in water

In the Saanich Inlet on the coast of BC, the depth of water
depleted in oxygen is 25 metres higher than 50 years ago
Results in reductions of habitat for marine organisms

High levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide lead to a more acidic
ocean surface, threatening marine life
In Canada, plankton, pteropods, molluscs and cold-water corals are
at risk

The temperature and chemistry of oceans is
Page 32 28 September 2012

The current pattern of warmer, drier summers and warmer winters
across the country is projected to continue
Changes in temperature and precipitation extremes are projected
In southern Ontario, the number of days exceeding 30C is expected to
more than double by 2050 (from 15 to 30 days in Windsor, from 8 to 16
days in Toronto and Ottawa)
Extreme daily precipitation amounts will likely become more intense and
more frequent
Arctic sea ice duration is expected to be 10 days shorter by 2020
Reductions in river flows are predicted for the summer, the season of
greatest demand for surface water
An overall 10-14% increase in Northern Quebec river flows is projected
In anticipation, Hydro Quebec is making significant capital decisions
For the Great Lakes, climate change is expected to lead to increased
evaporation in all seasons, especially in winter due to less ice coverage
It is expected that low levels will occur more frequently and seasonal
variation will increase

Projections of climate change in the near-term
Page 33 28 September 2012

In northern permafrost regions, the depth to which the ground thaws in
summer is projected to increase up to 50 percent in the next 50 years
The average length of the winter road season in northern Manitoba is
expected to decrease from the current 50 days to 35 days by the 2050s
The average area burned by wildfires is projected to increase by a factor
of 3.5 to 5 before the end of this century
Increased aridity and more frequent droughts are predicted for the
Global sea levels could rise 0.5-1 metre by the end of the century
As sea levels rise, the frequency of higher storm surges will increase

There is uncertainty with respect to the rate and magnitude at which
impacts will play out
For impacts already occurring, there is a high likelihood that these trends
will continue as the planet warms
Some changes have happened much faster than predicted (i.e. Arctic ice)

Projections of climate change in the near-term,