Tuesday, May 28, 2024

St. Mary’s hears about climate change trends affecting municipality

  • April 10 2024
  • By Joanne Jordan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter    

SHERBROOKE — Councillors received a lesson regarding climate change trends in their communities during the Municipality of the District of St. Mary’s committee of the whole meeting on April 3.

“As these things progress, we can expect to see many changes to our [day-to-day] weather and our climate [long-term patterns],” Alex Cadel, climate services specialist with the province, said during the session.

In his presentation, he touched on several things, including the rise in temperatures, more frequent and intense storms, changing precipitation patterns, a rise in sea levels and ocean changes.

Cadel, who works in a shared role between the Department of Environment and Climate Change and CLIMAtlantic, the new regional climate services hub for Atlantic Canada, explained that historic evidence predicts that, over time, summer days and nights will be more uncomfortable; there will be rapidly warming winters, less extreme cold and more temperatures above freezing; and increased risks of hazards, such as wildfires and droughts.

Reports, he said, predict there will be a great deal of change to our weather and climate in the St. Mary’s district over the next century. Between 1981 and 2010 the annual hottest day was 29 degrees Celsius, lasting [an average of] two days, while the annual coldest day during that time was -24.1 degrees Celsius, with ice days lasting an average of approximately 50 days.

By the end of the century, between 2071 and 2100, the annual hottest day is expected to be 34.4 degrees Celsius and will last for [an average of] approximately 35 days, while the annual coldest day for that time period will be -13.8 degrees Celsius,, with ice days lasting an average of approximately 12 days.

As temperatures get warmer there will be more precipitation, with more rain falling rather than snow. Due to the warmer temperatures, that water will evaporate or will result in more intense rainfalls, which in turn will lead to more flooding, according to the information presented by Cadel.

St. Mary’s has many coastal areas and according to local data, “We’ve already been seeing an increase in sea levels, about three centimeters per decade - historically,” said Cadel.

According to experts, by 2050, that number will be 35 centimetres per decade and, by 2100, it is expected sea levels will rise between 83 and 120 centimetres per decade.

“Sea level rise depends on tides and storm surge,” said Cadel. “What happens if the storm hits at the same time as the sea levels rise? Where does that put our water levels and are we prepared to deal with that?”

Along with coastal flooding, hazards will include saltwater intrusion and damage to coastal ecosystems. Coastal intrusion will mean the flooding of wells near the coast making the water undrinkable.

“Dunes or saltwater marshes really play a role in buffering our coast from impact from these stronger storms and waves and things like that,” said Cadel, “and they might not necessarily be able to keep pace with this sea level rise.

“Predicted increases to ocean temperatures will bring longer and more frequent marine heatwaves to the area, impacting ocean processes and habitats. Ocean acidification can corrode mollusks, crustaceans and corals, with the increased likelihood of algal blooms, and decreased marine oxygen levels will reduce the growth, reproduction and distribution of aquatic species,” he added.

Cadel noted that the items he talked about during his presentation are “really just trends and how things are changing.”

He said, “Ultimately, what we’re really interested in is how that impacts the things that we care about? How is this changing climate going to impact our community, infrastructure, the health and well-being of our people [and] the health of our ecosystems?”

Cadel added that mitigation will be crucial to avoid the most severe impacts, and adaptation will be necessary to adjust to the changing climate.

“The next steps of these conversations that I think are important to have among municipalities, and groups around the province, are identifying exactly what is at risk and what can we do about it,” he told council.

“Climate change touches every aspect of society. Responding to these challenges will require ambitious, collaborative efforts. Good information supports good decision-making. Keep these things in mind when you are planning for the future.”

In an email to The Journal regarding the presentation, Warden Greg Wier said, “It’s critical for [the] municipal government to stay well informed about the potential of climate change. Municipalities are impacted in multi-ways, from road maintenance, snow removal, building codes, even potential land use and zoning.”

He added, “It was a pleasure to hear from CLIMAtlantic and Mr. Cadel [and] to see his presentation that was specifically tailored to St Mary’s.”