The study used climate data from a variety of sources including Environment Canada, National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), and academic papers. Authors also considered ongoing and recent publications from the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) itself. Data analysis was supplemented by interviews with representatives of the Port of Churchill’s central stakeholders all of which was intended to provide insight on how infrastructure and operations may be altered in light of a changing climate. Interview outcomes will be considered in depth in the section titled Identifying Actions. Analysis of average temperature data for the area revealed a number of trends which will have significant impact on the shipping trade in Churchill, Manitoba. Among these is a projected increase in temperature of approximately 1℃ per decade between 2012 and 2061. Observed and projected increases in temperature translate to changes in sea ice formation and breakup, with the potential of extending the shipping season significantly. Additional climate data considered also projects an extension of the typical storm season of August to December further into the winter months thanks to longer open water conditions. Analysis of historical data from the NCEP as well data from Environment Canada weather stations in the area shows that wind speeds during the shipping season (July to November) have increased since 1970, while projections suggest wind related disruptions to port operations could become more common.
In 2016 members of the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) published a climate impact assessment for the Port of Churchill which considers the implications of rising temperatures, increasing winds and changes in sea ice on shipping activity in the Arctic area before outlining related vulnerabilities and opportunities. The document is informed by a robust review of relevant scientific literature, an examination of recent and ongoing CEOS projects as well as a series of interviews with representatives of the Port of Churchill’s central stakeholders. Information from these diverse sources enabled an identification of climate related vulnerabilities and opportunities for the Port of Churchill. Vulnerabilities to the Port of Churchill come in the form of increasing wind disruptions, a lack of hydrographic data and limitations to the Canadian Coast Guard’s search and rescue services. Opportunities identified centred around the possibility of an extended shipping season in light of climate warming and changes in sea ice. An extended season could mean the introduction of new exports and an increase in the export of current goods, among other benefits. With vulnerabilities and opportunities identified, the authors highlight a number of preliminary programs and research avenues to be pursued in order to better enable the safe and responsible increase in shipping activities at the Port of Churchill. Among these highlighted programs are those which look to clarify and delineate northern transportation corridors or to regulate the introduction of non-native species into arctic waters. Finally, the authors suggest that a more robust study of storm frequencies and windstorms in the Hudson Bay Complex be pursued. The Next Steps section below provides a more detailed examination of proposed measures and areas of future research.