Understanding and Assessing Impacts
Climate change in Northern Canada is occurring faster than expected, resulting in increasingly frequent and unpredictable extreme weather events. While the winters are long and cold, the short warm summers and brief shoulder seasons of spring and fall create perpetual surface drainage issues that are catastrophic in the extreme case, and a constant challenge every year. These challenges are compounded by the limited climate data available, adding to the risk and uncertainty. Many professionals agree that the changing climate has, and will continue to, alter northern weather conditions. Observed impacts in the North include:
- an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events resulting in greater snow accumulation, winter rain, icing, and higher winds;
- rapid spring melting;
- more sudden, intense precipitation events; and
- greater weather instability in general.
The results of vulnerability assessment studies undertaken in the North so far have confirmed that existing drainage and infrastructure are often inadequate to accommodate the effects of a changing climate. In many instances, there is a need for professional engineering guidance on how to manage drainage in a coordinated manner. A lack of coordinated planning, and not having the necessary equipment and supplies on hand when they are needed, ultimately results in delayed and more expensive repairs in the future. Other conditions often associated with climate change, such as warming and degrading permafrost conditions and pronounced local shifts in hydrogeology, are creating new drainage problems within communities and making existing problems worse. Consistent and regular annual maintenance is expected. However, regular maintenance alone is not sufficient to address the risks, challenges, and impacts of unpredictable catastrophic events where immediate response is required and repair capabilities are limited. New tools and adaptation strategies are needed to manage the effects of climate change on community surface drainage systems.