Canadians can expect more, and worse, floods in the near future

Mar 21, 2017
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The past five years have seen some of the worst flood activity in Canadian history. From the slow disaster of Richelieu, Quebec in 2011 where record high water levels dragged on for 37 excruciating days, to the flash flooding of the GTA just last July, floods are becoming more frequent and more severe across the nation.
And meteorologists say this is only the beginning of a very dangerous trend.
Traditionally, floods have always been one of Canada’s most frequent and expensive natural disasters. Over the past century, hundreds of floods of various sizes and intensities have occurred across the nation, resulting in everything from slightly inconvenienced commuters, to hundreds of millions of dollars worth of damage. But, the mounting frequency and ferocity of severe weather patterns over the past decade has put experts on edge. As the average amount of rain during a storm event continues to climb (in 2014, Burlington experienced over two months worth of rain over the span of a single storm event that lasted only a few hours), projections indicate that this trend will not only continue, but escalate.
Climate expert Franz Hartmann, the executive director of Toronto Environmental Alliance, warns that the average strength of rain storms across Canada are going to increase year after year given current trends. The prediction is that by 2040, severe rain events will escalate to over 160mm of rain per event. For comparison’s sake, the average severe storm between 2000 and 2009 resulted in 66mm of rain. The storm that shut down Toronto last July involved about 90mm of rain over the span of a few hours.
Studies suggest this trend of increasingly severe weather is one of the nastier consequences of global warming and climate change. As the climate heats up, additional moisture is introduced into the atmosphere. This results in not only more extreme rainfall, but also longer active weather patterns. It’s a deadly combination – not only are storms expected to become more intense and ferocious, they’re expected to linger and last longer on average as well, compounding the danger.
Not only that, but climate change is adversely effecting weather patterns across the nation. Rising sea levels have placed major coastal cities such as Vancouver in a increased risk of flooding, potentially risking billions of dollars worth of damage over the next ten years. The 2014 flooding that hit Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta is said to only be the tip of the ice-berg, with severe weather events expected to increase in frequency across the Prairies. In Ontario, climate change is bending and elongating the provinces Southwestern tornado corridor, potentially placing large cities such as Toronto in increased risk of major storm activity.
Flood preparedness has traditionally been something only coastal Canadians or homeowners near bodies of water have been concerned with. With clear evidence of larger, more prolific, and widespread storm and heavy rainfall activity coming in the near future, the rest of us no longer have the luxury of ignoring floods and water damage as a reality. Review your homeowners policy and speak with a broker to make sure you and your family have the protection you need when the rain starts to fall.


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