Weather system becoming 'unhinged' due to climate change, U of S expert says
Environment and Climate Change Canada this week released report showing Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world. CTV Morning Live host Jeremy Dodge spoke with John Pomeroy, director of the Global Waters Initiative at the University of Saskatchewan, to get his thoughts on how the warming trend could change life in Saskatchewan. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the global climate is warming - yet Saskatchewan just experienced its coldest February ever. How can that be possible?
Remember it was cold here, but if you're up in Inuvik or northern Yukon, it would have been 0 C or above 0 C in parts of February. Just incredible. A colleague of mine emailed me from Inuvik last week and said they're having a beer on the deck in the sunshine in T-shirts. So that's the Arctic now in March. The thing is, we also had the hottest period last summer and the highest temperatures in August and an exceptionally warm winter except for that cold snap. So this is part of the whole weather system becoming rather unhinged, and the extremes, the variability, increasing.
The report talks of higher temperatures, more precipitation - some producers might see this as a good thing. But that's not the case, is it?
It depends how it lines up. Overall if there's a warming over the Prairies, a lot of it in the winter, a little bit less in the summer, more rainfall and less snow, OK, some of these things could be good. But if the rain comes in five-day storms of 200 millilitres that put a lot of eastern Saskatchewan underwater like in 2014, or when the warmth comes because of draught like we've had in southern Saskatchewan - last year was record dry in Regina and other places - then we have problems.
The report says Canada is warming faster than any other part of the Earth, which was surprising to me. Why is that?
Because of our snow and ice - we're losing it. We're losing our glaciers, we're losing our spring snow pack, we're losing the sea ice. When there's snow on the ground it keeps us cold (and) reflects the large majority of solar radiation coming in. When the snow is gone, then the ground heats up and we warm up. The Arctic is heating up three times faster than the rest of the world. And there are areas like Inuvik which have seen about six degrees of warming since 1960. It's pretty severe.
What can we do to try and stave this off?
There are lots of things. One is the basic idea of prevention - so reduce greenhouse gas emissions, that means changing the way we do things in terms of industry, lifestyle, agriculture. We can do that, that's a technological fix, it can be done with the right will. There are other things such as the emission of soot and black carbon, which accelerates the melt of the snow and ice. We can slow that down very easily in some places - stop using diesel generators in the Arctic, all kinds of things, and other countries like China really have to clean up in that area.
And then, what do we do with the impacts? Because the impacts are largely through water, and that means managing our water more wisely and for this changed climate. How do we manage our floods and droughts, how do we maintain water quality in cities and communities under these situations? And how do we keep growing crops? All these are pretty interesting questions.