Weather or Not
July 10, 2017 By Paul Dixon
Shakespeare wrote about a winter of discontent more than 500 years ago. Well, we’ve certainly had our winter of discontent, though while the Bard’s seasonal woes were followed by a “glorious summer,” Canadians will have to wait and see how ours play out.
The irony is that many regions of the country have seemingly gone straight from winter to summer with only the briefest pause at springtime. I was chatting with Brad Fandrich at Valley Helicopters recently, and his take on current environmental conditions is that “the new normal is, there is no normal.”
Weather forecasting on the West Coast in particular is a matter of trying to gauge the constant tug-of-war between the warm, moist air coming off the Pacific and the dry air infiltrating down through the mountain passes. With the performance of the jet stream through the past winter, we’ve seen storms across the country in record numbers.
It’s one thing to know what the weather will be tomorrow or next week and make sound business decisions in the present tense, but businesses that exist primarily to provide services to other companies, need to understand what today’s clients will be doing five, 10 or even 20 years in the future. So, how will the weather, 20 years in the future, affect your key customers?
The Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium is part of the University of Victoria and has published reports outlining the effects of rising temperatures in the various regions of B.C. You may not live in B.C., but this peek into the future applies to you wherever you live. In the simplest terms, Canada will be influenced by more rain (is that possible in Vancouver?), longer heat waves, and feel the effects of rising oceans. The effects and impact of these changes will vary by region.
By 2050, if temperatures continue to rise at current rates, the following will occur:
- Rising sea levels will see sandy beaches disappear, especially when coupled with storms that are more frequent and extreme. Low-lying infrastructure such as airports, ferry terminals and port facilities will be particularity vulnerable. Is your business in the vulnerable zone?
- Increasing loss of glaciers will mean less cold water making its way into river systems, which will place additional stress on salmon stocks, which are particularly sensitive to water temperature. If any part of your business comes from wilderness adventure or coastal fishing lodges, what would the collapse of the salmon stock mean to you?
- Inland flooding from rivers and streams will increase in severity with a corresponding rise in property damage and interruption to commerce. Areas that are susceptible to flash floods and mudslides will see an increase. So, again re-assess your exposure to local threats.
In many areas of the province, a shorter winter would see a corresponding lengthening of the wildfire season, but as much as two months, something that has happening in recent years.
In early June, both the Trans-Canada highway west of Revelstoke and Hwy 97, the major north-south route in the Okanagan, were closed for days due to extensive flooding and washouts. In Penticton, B.C., the water level in Lake Okanagan (a not-insignificant body of freshwater) rose to the extent that the SS Sicamous, last of the great sternwheelers to work on the lake, floated free for the first time since 1951.
Fandrich also commented that at times he’s had to land in the snow up in the mountains so he can hook up his bucket and go to work on a wildfire. It sounds crazy unless you’ve been there, but you’re going to see more of that in the years ahead. Even in the middle of the big city, I can testify that when the rain stops and the sun comes out, there’s a ferocity I’ve never experienced before as the UV rating goes straight to the top of the scale.
So, think about who your customers are today and how environmental changes will influence operating conditions. These alterations could bring new opportunities, but you have to look as far ahead as you can.
The emergency management office I used to work with had a sign over their front desk that read, “It wasn’t raining when Noah started to build the ark.” Some people know when it’s going to rain and others just get wet.
Paul Dixon is a freelance writer and photojournalist living in Vancouver.