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Climate change in BC, IPCC 2013 outlook

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Couded climate ahead

Clouded climate ahead

I attended, on line, a conference on the newest IPCC report, along with the expected impacts of climate change for BC.  The conference was held this morning at the SFU Wosk Centre downtown .

 Here’s the skinny on what BC is looking at, according to Dr Francis Zwiers, director of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (and vice-chair of the IPCC working group 1):

  • Temperatures will increase in winter, more so than summer temperatures, which will increase nonetheless.  We’re in for an increase in the next two decades, regardless of whether we can effectively control emissions or not.  It is only starting in the 2040 decade that the differences between the emission scenarios become large.
  • There has already been a strong change in the climate regarding the number of frost free days; there are now between 3 to 4 weeks fewer days with frost than in 1900, and the trend will continue, with another 40 or so more frost-free day in the high emission scenario.  This may be good for gardeners, but bad for disease and pest control.
  • Precipitations will also increase, both summer and winter, but there is som much noise in the data that while the increase is real, it isn’t statistically significant (chew on that one a bit…).  The North will get the bulk of the increase in precip, while the south west will experience the least change.
  • Water resources will be very clearly impacted.  The bulk of BC’s electricity comes from the Peace River basin, with the peak flow occurring in late June following snowmelt; the river currently flows at an average of 3800 cubic meters per second at peak, compared to a flow of 1200 m3/s in August, down to only 200 in March.  Future flows (by 2080) are expected to be highest earlier (in May), but with a much reduced flow of only 2800 m3/s (only three quarters of current peak), a higher flow in March (six times as high, to 1200), but much lower in August (400 m3/s only, or only one thrid of the current flow).  So this spells problems for fish who are used to the current hydrologic regime; and it also could mean trouble for power generation and irrigation needs in summer.

There were questions about increased methane emissions, and the likelihood of more extreme climate, but  there was little new data shown in the answers.  All in all, the experts stated that the impacts will be substantial and require adaptation, even in the more optimistic scenario.  We are, as they say, entering an era of “climate change commitment”.

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Written by enviropaul

September 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm

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