British Columbians have been subjected to extreme weather events three out of the last five summers, altering the history of a season traditionally famed for its pleasant, sunny forecasts. This week’s epic heatwave, which wreaked havoc on the Pacific Northwest and is now making its way eastward to Alberta, has thrown the realities of climate change into clearer focus.
Climate scientists are wary of blaming climate change for any individual weather event. However, some argue that data implies that extreme occurrences are strengthening and becoming more common as a result of global warming. “I’m astounded,” said Simon Donner, a climatology professor at the University of British Columbia.
The community of Lytton in British Columbia’s interior broke Canada’s all-time weather record three days in a row, reaching 49 degrees Celsius on Tuesday. Temperatures in B.C.’s Fraser Valley reached the mid-40s. Vancouver, which usually benefits from cool ocean air, recorded an overnight low of 24 C on Monday night, the type of heat often felt in the tropics.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, the global temperature has risen by 1.2 degrees Celsius since industrialization. According to a 2019 assessment commissioned by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canada is warming twice as rapidly, with the fastest rates occurring in the north, prairies, and northern British Columbia. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising three times faster than in the rest of the world. “That may not seem like much, but it has a significant impact on the entire system. As a result, when there are large spikes, they rise higher “said Deborah Hartford, executive director of Simon Fraser University’s Adaptation to Climate Change policy planning initiative.