Canada's Environment Forecaster says 2018 was a "mishmash" of bad events


Suffocated by smoke, smothered by heat or cursing snow sooner or later, Canadians could be forgiven for asking what the hell happened to the weather in 2018.

"It was almost a hodgepodge of all that could go wrong," said David Phillips, senior climate scientist at Canada's Environment Ministry. "I do not think I missed anything."

Smoke, said Phillips, was Canada's top weather forecast this year.

A cold spring delayed the start of the fire season. But once warmed, it was not long before the sparks struck.

There were more than 250,000 lightning strikes in southern British Columbia between April and August. In just one day there were 20,000.

The resulting huge forest fires filled the skies from coast to coast with smoke that could be detected as far as Europe.

The cities of Alberta may have been the darkest.

Calgary recorded 478 hours of smoke and haze. A spell of smoke lasted almost six days. The normal count for the whole summer is 12 hours.

Edmonton had only 230 hours of smoke in comparison, but that was still more than double the usual.

Although factors such as forest practices and urban sprawl influence the effects of forest fires, Phillips said it is about climate.

"This is very dry, very hot, for a long time."

Speaking of heat, Canada fully participated in a global heatwave involving four continents.

It was Phillips' second story.

"It's a big country, Canada, and often you do not see people experiencing the same weather from Vancouver Island to Bonavista (in Newfoundland), but this year we saw it at record temperatures."

Halifax broke a record of 1876 with 18 consecutive days that reached at least 25 ° C.

In Quebec, 93 people died of heat-related causes.

July 1 in Ottawa set record heat and humidity and conditions cut Canada Day's attendance to 6,000 from an expected 20,000.

Moose Jaw, Sask., Reached 42.3 ° C on an August day.

It was also dry, especially in the Prairies where the crops suffered when only half the normal amount of rain fell between April and August.

"There have never been, in Regina, two drier years in a row in 131 years," Phillips said. This includes the overwhelming droughts of the Great Depression.

Arid conditions also harm livestock farmers. Hay plantations in some areas were only one-seventh of normal, much less than needed for winter feeding.

But it was not all smoke and heat. Phillips said story number 3 was the disappearance of spring and fall.

Winter was falling in the summer, then summer was back in winter, Phillips said, referring to what he calls the "weather whip."

"(It's) almost non-existent transitional seasons."

A long, cold spring kept frost on the ground two meters deep in some places, which meant a late start of the agricultural year for farmers. Then, with the fields ready in August and a good start to the harvest, the unprecedented snow crushed hopes.

More than $ 4 billion in crop was flattened under record snow.

In Edmonton, September was almost seven degrees colder than normal. The city received more than 38 inches of snow in a month when the norm is one.

Calgary shared the pain in October when a 38 centimeter drop in two days broke a 138-year record.

Like most climatologists, Phillips is cautious in blaming any climatic event on climate change, but he said that despite a long and colder winter than normal, Canada was again slightly warmer – the 22nd consecutive year above temperatures normal.

He also pointed out that Environment Canada scientists say the risk of fires in the west since 2015 has doubled at least because of man-induced warming and could be as much as six times greater.

"Scientists have demonstrated the fact that these things are directly related to human activity," he said.

Phillips is preparing the top 10 weather charts 23 years ago. Some years, he confesses, there was not much to talk about.

"There were not many things going on at that time. The summers were hot, the winters were cold.

"In 23 years, that has changed," he said.

"The weather turned strange and wild and crazy and variable. The weather changed."


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