CSA undertook a series of approaches to understand how climate change will impact the design of local infrastructure in the North: local traditional knowledge and weather data stations. Local traditional knowledge can supplement and is often the only source of weather and climate data in a specific area of the North. It is important that local knowledge is used in the design of new infrastructure and upgrades to existing infrastructure.
Local and traditional knowledge includes the following examples:
- The Denesoline of Lutsel K’e Dene First Nation Elders (living near the Great Slave Lake, NWT) have observed abnormal and unstable weather, such as unpredictable storms and unusually warm temperatures, and they have noticed an increase in lightning storms.
- The Sahtu Dene around the Great Bear Lake, NWT, have noted that in days past, snow would accumulate over many series of snowfalls, whereas nowadays, they note that it more likely arrives via unique heavy storm events.
- Residents of Québec’s Ivujivik (in Nunavik) have reported stronger winds and more storms per year, and both Inuit experts and scientists in Clyde River, Nunavut, note that wind velocity has risen in recent years, and the wind direction is far more variable and unpredictable.
Climate data and future climate data modelling were also utilized to better understand the impacts on northern communities and infrastructure. Future climate modelling considered a timeline out to 2100 and two climate scenarios (RCP 2.6 and 8.5) and considered:
- Annual mean temperature change
- Changes in mean annual and seasonal precipitation
- Changes in snowpack
- Permafrost thaw
- Changes to sea ice and a reduction of ice cover
- Sea-level rise
Snowpacks in the North are expected to become more saturated with water than in the past. This might be due to increased rainfall during warmer springs, warmer snow days, or increased precipitation as snow. Data from the North American insurance industry has revealed that roof failure due to concentrated snow drift loads is three times more likely to occur than collapse due to uniformly distributed snowfall loads across the entire roof.